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Rohingya crisis: Britain shocks Myanmar with military training withdrawal

Rohingya crisis: Britain shocks Myanmar with military training withdrawal

LONDON: Britain said it had suspended its ‘educational training courses’ for the Myanmar military due to the ethnic violence in Rakhine state.

London said it had “deep concern” about human rights abuses and would not be resuming the military courses unless there was an “acceptable resolution” to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.

Communal violence has torn through Myanmar’s western Rakhine state since Muslim minority Rohingya militants staged deadly attacks on police posts on August 25.

An army-led fightback has left scores dead and sent more than 420,000 Rohingya fleeing the mainly Buddhist country into neighbouring Bangladesh in recent weeks.

“In light of the ongoing violence in Burma’s Rakhine state, the growing humanitarian crisis it has caused, and our deep concern about the human rights abuses that are taking place, we have decided to suspend the educational courses provided to the Burmese military until there is an acceptable resolution to the current situation.

“We call on the Burmese armed forces to take immediate steps to stop the violence in Rakhine and ensure the protection of all civilians, to allow full access for humanitarian aid and to facilitate the civilian government’s implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations in full.”

The year-long commission, led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, tasked with healing divisions between the Rohingya and local Buddhists, urged immediate action to heal the divide.

Britain’s junior foreign minister Mark Field has said the UK armed forces provided vocational courses, focused on language training, governance, accountability, ethics, human rights and international law to the Myanmar military.

“Exposing them to how modern militaries operate in a democracy is more effective than isolating them,” he told parliament on September 5.

Britain did not provide combat training, Field said.

“The UK is, and will remain, a very strong supporter of continuing the EU arms embargo” on Myanmar, he added.

Some 150 members of parliament wrote to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on September 6 calling for the training programme to be suspended.

Britain is the former colonial power in Myanmar, which gained independence in 1948.

AFP