Samantha Hawley: If you could tell us a bit about what you spoke to the Minister about.
Julie Bishop: We’re here in Nay Pyi Taw to meet with political leaders including the President, the Foreign Minister, the Education Minister and Aung San Suu Kyi, and I’ve just completed my meeting with the Foreign Minister. We spoke about the bilateral relationship, how Australia and Myanmar are engaging more closely on a range of issues, including in trade and investment, defence, education, and of course Australia is a substantial donor of foreign aid, about $90 million this year. And we also spoke about the fact that Myanmar has agreed to participate in our New Colombo Plan for next year, and we hope to see Australian undergraduates living and studying here in Myanmar.
At a regional level we discussed the fact that Myanmar is currently hosting ASEAN. We talked about the importance of the East Asia Summit as the premier leaders’ forum for resolving issues and challenges in the region. And also the fact that this year is the 40th anniversary of Australia’s relationship with ASEAN as a dialogue partner.
At a broader level, I also raised issues of human rights. We discussed specifically the Rakhine State and the action plan the Myanmar Government is putting in place. We also discussed the Rohingya community and I raised our concerns about human rights, humanitarian access. And we discussed the peace process, the ceasefire and I was very encouraging of the Government’s attempts at political and economic reform and certainly encouraged their path to democracy. We discussed the constitutional reforms and general outlook for Myanmar in the future.
I also raised our concerns about North Korea and encouraged Myanmar to continue to join with our regional partners in ensuring that North Korea denuclearises and abides by the UN Security Council resolutions.
Samantha Hawley: Just one question then. On the human rights front, what was his response in relation to what’s unfolding in Rakhine State and elsewhere?
Julie Bishop: He was concerned about those who are currently in camps and in need of humanitarian assistance. I spoke about the support that Australia had been giving and I talked about the international and regional concerns about human rights in Myanmar. And he listened to my concerns and took them on board, but it was quite a constructive discussion.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555