US mulls sanctions over Burma’s treatment of Rohingya
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US mulls sanctions over Burma’s treatment of Rohingya

THE United States is considering “accountability mechanisms”, including targeted sanctions, over Burma’s (Myanmar) treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State, the State Department said on Monday.

“We express our gravest concern with recent events in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured,” it said in a statement.

“It is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.”

SEE ALSO: US lawmakers step up pressure on Burma over Rohingya crisis

The government plans to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky law, which enables the president to block or revoke the visas and impose property sanctions on individuals or entities responsible for human rights violations.

The announcement from the State Department follows calls from more than 40 United States lawmakers for President Donald Trump’s administration to act against the military in light of the accusations of ethnic cleansing and gross human rights abuses.

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Aerial view of a burned Rohingya village near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine state, Myanmar, on Sept 27, 2017. Source: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since Aug 25, when the military crackdown began in response to a spate of attacks of security check points in Rakhine State.

The State Department made the statement ahead of Trump’s scheduled visit to the region early next month when he will attend a summit of Asean countries, including Burma, in Manila.

SEE ALSO: UN appeals for more support for Rohingya in ‘arc of misery’

While the statement details the strongest US response so far to the Rohingya crisis, it falls short of applying the most drastic tools at Washington’s disposal such as reimposing broader economic sanctions suspended under the Obama administration.

Measures already taken include ending travel waivers for current and former members of the military in Burma and barring units and officers in northern Rakhine state from US assistance, the statement said.

The department also called on the Burmese government to “take immediate action to ensure peace and security,” saying it was ready to support in these efforts.

“The Government of Burma, including its armed forces, must take immediate action to ensure peace and security; implement commitments to ensure humanitarian access to communities in desperate need; facilitate the safe and voluntary return of those who have fled or been displaced in Rakhine State; and address the root causes of systematic discrimination against the Rohingya by implementing the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations, which includes providing a credible path to citizenship,” the statement said.