June 26, 2014

Burma Campaign UK Wins Appeal Against Decision To Keep Burma Army Training Details Secret

Burma Campaign UK has been notified by the British Ministry of Defence that we have won our appeal against a decision not to release course materials used on the course which the Burmese Army is taking part in.

However, the Ministry of Defence has still not provided all materials used on the course, despite admitting that we are entitled to it.

Burma Campaign UK made a request in August 2013 for all course documents and materials used in the Managing Defence in the Wider Security Context course, which the British government has invited Burmese Army officers to join.

The Ministry of Defence turned down the request, citing commercial confidentiality. In October 2013 Burma Campaign UK appealed against the refusal to disclose the information. According to the Ministry of Defence’s own procedures, they should reply within 20 working days (1 month). Instead they took almost 8 months.

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 print-outs 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.

Following the delays in responding to the appeal, Burma Campaign UK reported the Ministry of Defence to the Information Commissioner.

“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,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “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.”

The Ministry of Defence have also missed the deadline under Freedom of Information rules for a request for any kind of evaluation of the military training given to the Burmese Army. They should have provided the information by the 28th May.  The Foreign Office have responded to a similar request, but have said they need an additional 20 days to make a decision. They cite the impact on international relations as the reason. This means that they are concerned that releasing the information will upset the government of Burma.

More information:

Burma Campaign UK reports Ministry of Defence For FOI breach re Burma military training

Training War Criminals? – British Training of the Burmese Army

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