Australia Downgrades Diplomatic Ties With Myanmar Junta

By The Irrawaddy 17 May 2022

The Australian government will replace its ambassador to Myanmar with a lower-ranked representative as it downgrades its diplomatic ties so as not to legitimize the military regime.

ABC News reported that “a senior officer with ambassadorial experience in the region” from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been selected to replace ambassador Andrea Faulkner, who finished her term in April.

The new representative, a chargé d’affaires or a diplomat who serves as an embassy’s chief of mission in the absence of an ambassador, will not present her credentials to the regime as head of the diplomatic mission. She has not yet been permitted to travel to Myanmar.

Several western countries have downgraded their diplomatic relations since last year’s coup.

Britain’s diplomatic representative to Myanmar, Pete Vowles, is in Thailand as the regime has refused to issue him a visa after London decided to downgrade his title from ambassador to chargé d’affaires.

The junta formally notified Britain in late April that it would not accept its designated envoy as a chargé d’affaires but would consider alternative candidates.

The British envoy arrived in Myanmar late last year but did not present his credentials to the State Administrative Council despite repeated requests. He was locked out of the country in late February when he left his Yangon residence for international gatherings and was refused permission to re-enter. His title on social media was amended earlier this year to “head of British Embassy in Myanmar.”

Australia has been under fire from human rights groups for not imposing fresh sanctions on the regime. Australian economist Sean Turnell, who was an economic adviser to the National League for Democracy government, has been in detention since the coup.

Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said last year that Turnell was being investigated and faced two possible charges over allegations that he tried to flee Myanmar after the February 1 coup with secret financial information. He faces potential prison terms of five and seven years for the two offenses.

Turnell’s family and the Australian government have repeatedly called for his release.

Australia has also offered to grant asylum to defectors from Myanmar’s military since January.

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