Australian engagement with Myanmar

Media release

16 October 2012

Foreign Minister Bob Carr today announced Australia would step up its engagement with Myanmar through advice on elections and government structures and support in building an effective foreign investment regime.

Speaking from New York after talks with United Nations Special Adviser to Myanmar Mr Vijay Nambiar, Senator Carr said there was further evidence that Myanmar's democratic reforms were irreversible.

"I'm heartened by Myanmar's continued progress towards democratic and economic reform," Senator Carr said.

"Election reforms currently under consideration include greater freedom of assembly and speech, and the use of public spaces for independent political rallies.

"Myanmar is also working towards freer foreign investment regimes to encourage infrastructure and resources industries with an acceptable rate of return for the nation itself.

"Australia strongly supports these reforms.

"Through our aid program, Australia will be lending experience and personnel to Myanmar to develop electoral systems and progress the registration of political parties and the conduct of elections.

"Similar advice and support will be offered in establishing an investment regime."

Australia would also seek to change the wording of United Nations resolutions critical of Myanmar's Government, to take account of recent reforms.

Senator Carr said he sensed a store of goodwill towards Australia in Myanmar, as a result of Australia's leadership in lifting sanctions, providing aid and sponsoring capacity-building through visitors' and scholarships programs.

Myanmar remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Less than half of all Myanmar children will finish primary school and around 70,000 children under five years old die from preventable causes each year.

Australian aid to Myanmar will more than double to $100 million per year by 2015, with a focus on education and basic health care in remote and regional centres.

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