The bellicose bloke who rebuked Burma and its butchers is now letting the buggers come here to study English

Must have a word with Murray McCully about the butchers of Burma.

It seems a few of the buggers are being taught English in this country, and Alf’s constituents – all New Zealand taxpayers, actually – are picking up the tab.

More of the Burmese bureaucrats may come here. So what’s up with McCullly?

Does he have some mad plan to turn this country into a Burmese abattoir?

The scandal – and McCully’s namby-pamby attitude to what’s going on – is exposed on Stuff’s web-site today.

Three government officials from Myanmar’s repressive military regime are studying English in New Zealand, funded by the taxpayer.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, who once called Myanmar’s rulers the “Butchers of Burma”, confirmed he had agreed that the three officials could study here. More are likely to arrive.

Stuff refers to the benighted country as Myanmar, not Burma, but whatever the name, it is governed by a military regime. a bunch of thugs, who persecute their opponents.

Aung Sung Su Kyi – the country’s democratically elected leader – has been under house arrest for most of the past 20 years since she won a general election.

Burma Cross-Party Parliamentary Group chairwoman Maryan Street, a Labour MP, reckons we should not be doing anything to prop up those thugs (although maybe she didn’t quite use those words).

She said the officials – studying in Wellington, Napier, and Nelson – could spy on refugees in this country, leading to possible persecution of families in Burma.

“This is not the same as providing humanitarian support and assistance and training for people who are going back to help develop their country.”

Street’s pappy-brained colleague, Chris Carter, is Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman. Alas, he doesn’t seem to share her (and Alf’s) dismay.

He said it was important to show the Myanmar officials how democracy should work. “It’s about political education in a way.”

Yeah, the wanker would say something sad like that.

But McCully? Why is he endorsing this nonsense?

Maybe he has his mind on more important matters, like the Rugby Word Cup.

Whatever has addled his brain, he says he allowed the officials to study here after a review of Myanmar’s involvement in the English Language Training for Officials scheme.

That was in line with an international move – led by United States President Barack Obama – to increase engagement with Myanmar in preparation for what were hoped to be democratic elections this year.

McCully said each participant in the English Language Training for Officials scheme cost about $35,000 to educate over six months.

This is paid for by the New Zealand Government (which means you and me).

About 35 officials have visited from Myanmar since 1998.

Wonder if they are given lessons in how to spell “democracy” and what it means.

Of course, Alf is reminded of the time when McCully – as National’s foreign affairs spokesman – said the Clark Government had been throwing “tantrums” over Air New Zealand carrying Australian troops to the Iraq war and imposed sanctions on Fiji after it was taken over by a military regime.

“It is hard to reconcile these actions with the decision to allow a wholly taxpayer-owned company to carry out engineering work for the Butchers of Burma, especially when it is likely that the communications facilities they are constructing will be used as a tool for the continued suppression of the Burmese people,” Mr McCully said.

Back in his Opposition days, too, McCully railed against the Clark Government and media for “force-feeding us with stories about a place called ‘Myanmar’ – the term adopted by the military junta in 1989, soon after they seized power.”

He said in a weekly newsletter –

As has previously been reported in this publication, the worldwide headquarters of mccully.co is firmly of the view that it should be BURMA. As previously quoted, a leading UK Burma campaigner explained the difference thus:

“Often you can tell where someone’s sympathies lie if they use Burma or Myanmar. Myanmar is a kind of indicator of countries that are soft on the regime.”

After witnessing the appalling indifference of Burma’s military leadership to the welfare of its cyclone-ravaged citizens over recent days, the question needs to be asked: just why would New Zealand’s Government leadership and its media go out of their way to honour the wishes of such a regime by referring to the country as Myanmar, when both the political leadership and the media of the UK, Europe and Australia do precisely the opposite?

Australia’s DFAT website makes clear that country’s official preference for “Burma”.

The US State Department asserts the preference for “Burma” “due to consistent, unyielding support for the democratically elected leaders”, and the UK Foreign Office notes that “Burma’s democracy movement prefers the form “Burma” because they do not accept the legitimacy of the unelected military regime to change the official name of the country.”

The very least that our Government and our media should be doing after witnessing the events of the past week is to insist upon calling the place Burma.

Fair to say, he banged out a media statement last year after Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted for alleged breaches of detention conditions, and sentenced to a further 18 months of home detention.

He stuck to his guns and referred to the country as Burma.

“It is difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the Burmese government orchestrated this verdict to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi would still be in detention and therefore unable to particpate in planned elections next year,” Mr McCully said.

“Today’s events will be greeted with dismay by the international community, which condemned Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest in May, and had been pushing hard for her release

“It will also be seen as a slap in the face for Burma’s regional neighbours, who have maintained an open dialogue with the Burmese government in an effort to encourage a more democratic approach.

“It is difficult to see any other outcome to today’s verdict than further international isolation for Burma.”

But not too much isolation.

Asked to justify his attitude to the officials studying here, McCully would only say it was “consistent with the international community”.

Alf can only register his deep perturbation.

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