Australia increases aid to Myanmar

Canberra, March 18 (IANS) Australia announced Monday that it will increase aid to Myanmar.

The announcement came during the visit by Myanmar President U Thien Sein in Canberra, the first visit by Myanmar president to Australia since 1974. U Thien Sein met Prime Minister Julia Gillard for a wide range of talks, reported Xinhua.
At a joint press conference with Gillard, U Thien Sein said he recognised human rights concerns but his country was making the “transition to peace”.
Gillard said there was “much to do” in Myanmar to promote human rights and national reconciliation. “But we have been very admiring of the remarkable amount of progress … and we are optimistic of further progress,” she said.
As part of a growing aid program, Australia will provide an additional 20 million Australian dollars ($20.6 million) over two years for the first phase of the new Myanmar-Australia Partnership for Reform.
Aiming to enhance trade and investment ties with Myanmar, Australia will shortly post a resident trade commissioner to Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial centre. Australia will also lift some restrictions on defence engagement and will post a resident defence attache to Myanmar.
The Myanmar-Australia Partnership for Reform will also provide assistance for the development of the mining sector in Myanmar. Australia will host a visit by Myanmar ministers to draw on Australia’s mining expertise.
Australia’s aid program to Myanmar is expected to double in size to 100 million Australian dollars ($103 million) per year by 2015, according to a media release by Gillard’s office.