Article originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald

By Craig Skehan

THE Australian Federal Police has confirmed three of its officers trained 20 Burmese police in intelligence gathering, as the international group Aidwatch warned that such co-operation should be curtailed amid the brutal suppression of democracy activists.

The 20 police were among more than 70 from Burma who, during the past three years, have participated in a regional training program at the Australian-funded Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Co-operation in Indonesia.

Kate Wheen of Aidwatch said yesterday that Australian-imparted skills could be misused by the military regime in the pursuit of its critics.

The junta has acknowledged that at least 15 people have been killed by Burmese security forces during the past fortnight.

The federal police maintained yesterday that collaboration, including the posting of police in Burma, was justified to stem crimes including the smuggling of heroin and people into Australia. A spokesman said the police commissioner, Mick Keelty, took the view that it was up to the Australian Government to decide on the future of such co-operation.

The office Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer told the Herald police training and other forms of counter-terrorism collaboration involving Burma would not be jettisoned.

Burmese officials have come to Australia at the invitation of various federal agencies, including for training to combat money laundering.

An AusAID document refers to funds being provided for the training of “senior officials in the theory of counter-terrorism recognition and collaboration for combating terrorism”.

Among critics of the Australian training of Burmese personnel is Trevor Wilson, who was posted under the Howard Government as Australia’s ambassador to Burma from 2000 to 2003.

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