Secret UK Training Course for Burma Army Officers Made Public After Challenge

A legal appeal by the human rights advocacy group to make public details of the Britain’s training of Burma’s military has succeeded.

The human rights advocacy group, Burma Campaign UK, said it had been notified by the British Ministry of Defence that they had won their appeal against a decision not to release details of training in which members of Burma’s military take part.

Burma Campaign UK said it had first made a request in August last year for all course documents and materials used in the ‘Managing Defence in the Wider Security Context course, following a decision by the British Government to invite Burma Army officers to undergo the course.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence refused the request, citing ‘commercial confidentiality.’ Burma Campaign UK said in a statement that the MOD took 8 months to respond to their appeal against the refusal, despite MOD procedure stating that replies should be made within one month.

Burma Campaign UK maintained that the MOD had failed to so far provide all the information it was entitled to provide to the public.

“In reviewing our appeal, the Ministry of Defence decided that its original decision had not been compliant with the Freedom of Information Act, and that it is in the public interest to release the information. However, the information provided so far only includes printouts of powerpoint presentations used on the course, and no other information. Burma Campaign UK is waiting for a response from the Ministry of Defence regarding the rest of the materials used on the course,” the group said.

Burma Campaign’s Director, Mark Farmaner, welcomed the MOD’s decision to make the course public but expressed concern that the information hadn’t yet been released in full.

“We are pleased that the Ministry of Defence has finally agreed that they should not keep details of the training they are giving to the Burmese Army a secret, but it is very frustrating that they still haven’t released this information,” he said, accusing the MOD of obstructing the public’s right to freedom of information, “The Ministry of Defence appear to be deliberately using excuse after excuse to try to obstruct us from obtaining any kind of information about the training they are giving to the Burmese Army.”

Burma Campaign said it had reported to the UK Information Commissioner following the MOD delays.

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