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Friday, April 23

Burmese officials will be loyal foot-soldiers of regime - Green says

Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s failed to reassure refugees from Burma this afternoon that officials representing Burma’s junta would not monitor the political activities of expatriate Burmese in New Zealand, said Green Party MP Keith Locke.

Three officials from the Burmese regime are currently being funded by the New Zealand Government to brush up their English language skills. The officials are being trained in New Zealand.

During parliament’s question time Mr McCully was unable to give any assurance that these officials would not monitor the activities of Burmese dissidents and refugees in New Zealand.

“I am not reassured by Mr McCully’s reference to them as ‘junior’ officials,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“Does he consider that these officials will not be reporting back to their superiors the fact that their $35,000 per head New Zealand taxpayer funded training has been brought to light by a prominent anti-junta activist?

“The junta would only allow its most loyal officials to come to New Zealand, and there is little doubt that they would be tasked to monitor local Burmese who are critical of the regime.”

“Mr McCully could provide no guarantee that there would be no monitoring of local Burmese,” said Mr Locke.

“It is also not acceptable that we are training officials from the Burmese Foreign Ministry, whose role is to present a rosy image of the regime, now – after their training here – with better English.”

“This is also not the time to be rewarding the regime which is refusing to release the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and shutting her party out of the forthcoming election.

“Governments like the United States are responding with sharper criticisms of the regime.”