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Meeting with Burmese MPs

May 8, 2012

With Mr Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ms Janelle Saffin, Ms Sanda Min and Mr Phyo Min Thein on May 7, 2012

I had the great privilege yesterday to meet with three new MPs, all former political prisoners, from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy.

The fact they were allowed to contest elections – and won their seats – speaks volumes about the extent of change in Burma under President Thein Sein.

The MPs told me they welcomed Australia’s recent decision to ease sanctions against Burma but asked that we continue to monitor closely the human rights situation there. We will certainly do that.

  1. May 8, 2012 2:45 pm

    I travelled to Burma in 2004 and it was one of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had. It was also terrible to see what a once beautiful country had become. Since then i’ve followed events in Burma with a keen interest and didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime any real progress towards democracy. So what we’ve seen in recent months with elections is such a relief. It’s good to know that Australia has eased sanctions but also that we’re still keeping a close eye developments.

  2. Pang Lim permalink
    May 8, 2012 5:27 pm

    I thought this country is now called Myanmar and not Burma!

    • Bob Carr permalink*
      May 8, 2012 10:42 pm

      No, we and some other countries use them interchangeably. The delegation agreed with this. No big deal.

  3. May 9, 2012 5:07 pm

    Our West Australian Institute is supporting a team of emergency medicine specialists, surgeons and anaesthetists has come together to guide the development of a landmark emergency medical education program in Myanmar.

    The team is comprised of Western Australian, Australian and internationally based doctors. A key member is Perth-based Associate Professor Chris Curry, a specialist in Emergency Medicine based at Fremantle Hospital, who currently serves on the International Skills and Training Institute in Health (ISTIH) Medical Advisory Committee.

    The lead emergency physician is Dr Georgina Phillips, a colleague of Dr Curry’s, based at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. Co-ordinating the team is Dr James Kong, a Hong Kong based, Australian trained surgeon who grew up in Myanmar.

    The group will visit Myanmar in June 2012 to deliver the first ever Myanmar Emergency Medicine Introductory Course (MEMIC) to doctors at Yangon General Hospital (formerly Rangoon).

    This is the second visit Dr Curry will make to the Indian Ocean nation. In February of this year, Dr Curry visited teaching hospitals in Yangon and Mandalay, at the invitation of leading Burmese surgeon, Zaw Wai Soe. This visit contributed to the building of an Emergency Medicine development plan that will utilise Dr Curry’s network of Australasian colleagues within the International Emergency Medicine Special Interest Group (IEMSIG) of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM), fellows of the Australasian College of Surgeons, and international colleagues based in Hong Kong, as advisors and initial trainers.

    This plan will unfold over three major phases. The first is to recruit doctors currently specialised in other disciplines to undertake a series of intensive short courses in emergency medicine – of which the June 2012 MEMIC course will form a key part. These doctors will become leaders in the next phases of the program, and will be involved in the establishment of a Masters in Medical Science program specialising in Emergency Medicine, with international guidance where required. The final phase will extend emergency medicine training programs to other clinical practitioners and allied health workers, including general practitioners, ambulance officers and emergency nurses.
    “Having had half a century of a closed military dictatorship”, says Dr Curry, “most of the country’s doctors have had no exposure to modern emergency medicine.”

    Dr Curry cites the “established and maturing” emergency medicine training program initiated at the University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby in 2001 as a successful example of the ‘train the trainer’ model. In Papua New Guinea, he explained, though there are still Australian clinicians visiting to assist and act as medical examiners, education in Emergency Medicine has progressed to the stage that “ten years down the track… they now are almost independently training and graduating their own emergency physicians.”

    The Institute support will contribute towards assisting doctors in Myanmar to devise a system best suited to their own working environment, with invited assistance from international specialists such as the IEMSIG group, in addition to several of Dr Curry’s colleagues in Perth.

    • Bob Carr permalink*
      May 10, 2012 7:34 pm

      Aiming to get there around June. Let the embassy know if you want me to see you and your work.

  4. C Lamb permalink
    May 9, 2012 11:08 pm

    Bob, this is really good, and deserves a solid news-mention. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first trip outside Burma/Myanmar by newly elected NLD MPs, and the fact that you were able to receive them (and the Prime Minister too, I’ve heard) has real news value.
    I’m working with people on some issues which should be of special significance for what you are doing. I’ll write about that separately though.
    All the very best, my friend.

  5. June Rose permalink
    May 10, 2012 3:20 pm

    These MPs are getting a taste of parliament even before they have had a chance to step into their own. Australia is the first country to offer training; The former Foreign Minister (K.Rudd)was the very first FM to ring up Aung San Suu Kyi after she was released from house arrest and became the first FM to visit her as well! WELL DONE AUSTRALIA (and Bob). More to come, I am sure.

    • Bob Carr permalink*
      May 10, 2012 7:36 pm

      Good observations. Looking at giving them and Burma all the help we can.

  6. C Lamb permalink
    May 11, 2012 7:58 pm

    Bob, did you see that a group of Myanmar MPs visited the European Parliament yesterday? There were no NLD members in the group, and Australia is still the only country NLD MPs have visited, although two are apparently scheduled to go to Germany soon. It’s great that you were able to be the first host to NLD MPs, and I hope other countries (and the media) will give this due appreciation.

  7. May 20, 2012 10:41 pm

    Australia always at the very front engaging with Burma and it’s about time we should extend our interests beyond South China Sea and be fully in the game.

  8. Robert permalink
    May 25, 2012 9:25 pm

    Hi Bob

    I’ve travelled to Burma numerous times, it is a beautiful country.

    If (or when) you travel there, make sure you visit a school (outside Rangoon, of course). I managed to see a few when i was there and i was amazed by a few things: 1) how dedicated the teachers were (i was told they rarely get paid and when they do it is a pittance), 2) how many children they managed to fit into small classrooms, and 2) how appalling the facilities were: no blackboards, buildings falling apart, no toilets or fresh water taps.

    I’ve volunteered before overseas and seen some of the work Australia has done in south east asia. Some of it has been fantastic – made me really proud. I hope Australia does more in education in Burma – they desperately need it.

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