May 16, 2011

Germany helps Myanmar with trainings for its diplomats

Over the past three years, the German government has regularly invited Myanmar diplomats to take part in an annual month-long training programme conducted by the German Foreign Office’s Foreign Service Academy in Berlin, according to documents available on the government’s website.

The training of a handful of Myanmar diplomats was also attended by diplomatic colleagues from other Asean member countries. It included ‘special courses in diplomatic skills, e.g. international negotiation, diplomatic reporting, public speaking and media training’. Participants were also treated to tickets to Germany’s elite Bundeslig football game and a visit to the office of aircraft maker Airbus.

A leaked US diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks suggest that Germany along with Italy and Spain have been advocating an EU ‘re-engagement’ with Myanmar. A related cable dated August 2008 quotes a British official telling American diplomats that in contrast to the UK and other EU members who support sanctions, ‘At the far end opposing sanctions are the Germans and Austrians’.

The EU sanctions were introduced in 1996 and include an arms embargo and a ban on sales of equipment for internal repression. Over the years, the EU’s sanctions were strengthened to add targeted financial sanctions and an EU-wide travel ban for the senior members of the military regime and their family members.

While the EU has been hotly debating sanctions and engagement with Myanmar, the German government has actively trained and engaged with at least four Myanmar diplomats, according to documents obtained by Mizzima.

Apart from providing training in diplomatic skills and public speaking, the Myanmar diplomats were given lectures on international law and visited the offices of Deutche Welle and Theo Sommer, the editor of the weekly Die ZEIT. On two separate occasions in 2010 and 2009, the diplomats were taken to meet the German Asia-Pacific business association, (Ostasiatischer Verein or OAV), a Hamburg-based industry trade group, whose membership includes more than 500 firms.

At least four Myanmar diplomats have been trained over the last three years. Last September, Myanmar diplomat Htuann Naung was trained in Berlin under the four-week programme which in addition to a visit to the offices of Airbus, included meeting with a German-Asia business council, OAV, and a visit to the offices of Chancellor Merkel. The diplomat and the other trainees were also taken to the offices of German chemical manufacturer BASF for a meeting with the firm’s director for Asia-Pacific affairs.

Htuann Naung and his two Myanmar colleagues who took part in the training programme in 2009 and 2008 were also taken to Brussels and the Hague to learn about the EU and the International Criminal Court.

The German government reports show that in 2009 Myanmar diplomat Sandar Tin took part in the training programme, which included attending a German Bundesliga football game. Sandar Tin and the other diplomats on her programme were also treated to a trip to Hamburg which included a visit to Airbus and a meeting with representatives of OAV.

Source: Mizzima