Australia cuts Myanmar ties over coup
Australia is suspending military ties with Myanmar as the death toll rises following a coup led by the South-East Asian country's army.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne released a statement on Sunday night condemning the use of lethal force and violence against civilian protesters.
"Australia has raised our grave concerns about the military coup in Myanmar and the escalating violence and rising death toll following the events of 1 February," she said. "We condemn the use of lethal force or violence against civilians exercising their universal rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."
Ms Payne called on Myanmar's security forces "to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against civilians."
She added: "Australia has had a limited bilateral Defence Cooperation Program with Myanmar's military, restricted to non-combat areas such as English language training. This program will be suspended."
Her statement comes as horrific photos emerged from the country this week amid a brutal crackdown by the regime using bullets and tear gas. Wednesday marked the "bloodiest day" so far, with at least 38 protesters killed and scores more injured after authorities opened fire on crowds.
The UN's envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener said that more than 50 had died since the military coup last month.
The chaos began on February 1 when the army deposed the democratically elected government and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ms Payne also reiterated calls for the release of Australian academic Sean Turnell, who has been detained in Myanmar with limited consular access for more than 30 days.
"We call for the immediate release of Professor Sean Turnell, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and others who have been arbitrarily detained since 1 February," she said in the statement.
"As a longstanding supporter of Myanmar's democratic transition, Australia has been reviewing its Myanmar policy settings. We have also undertaken extensive consultations with our international partners particularly our ASEAN neighbours, Japan and India. The political stability of ASEAN member states is essential to achieving our vision for a secure, peaceful, prosperous and open Indo-Pacific region with ASEAN at its centre."
Ms Payne said that Australia's development program was to be re-directed to "the immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and poor including the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities" and that it would "seek to ensure" this engagement was with non-government organisations.
The foreign minister said that Australia would "continue to review" its sanctions regime - already includes an arms embargo on supplying weapons to Myanmar and specific sanctions on a number of individuals.
"We call on the Myanmar regime to engage in dialogue," she added.
Originally published as Australia cuts Myanmar ties over coup