Australia increases Myanmar aid

CANBERRA - The Australian government on Monday announced it was extending defence ties and offering extra incentives on trade and investment in Myanmar.

  • Published: 18/03/2013 at 11:44 AM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Screen grab from Australian TV shows Prime Minister Julia Gillard (left) and Myanmar President Thein Sein arriving at a press conference Monday in Canberra.

As Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Thein Sein met to discuss the increased aid, protesters rallied outside the Myanmar embassy and Parliament House, claiming both countries were ignoring human rights violations by the Myanmar government.

Mr Thein Sein, who has gone from pariah to reformer in the eyes of Australia, is the first head of state from Myanmar to visit the country since 1974, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.

At a press conference, Mr Thein Sein told Ms Gillard and Australians he recognises human rights concerns but that Myanmar is making the "transition to peace".

"What we are undertaking has no precedent in modern times," he said.

Ms Gillard replied that there is "much to do" in Myanmar on human rights and national reconciliation. But she quickly added:

"We have been very admiring of the remarkable amount of progress ... and we are optimistic of further progress."

She announced the establishment of an A$20 million two-year aid programme, as well as the posting of a resident defence attache and a trade commissioner in Naypyidaw.

"We will consider further proposals in the future including (military) training," she said.

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