Sun, Nov 05, 2017 - Page 4 News List

US seeks new sanctions on Myanmar

‘NO HARM TO US’:The proposition would also renew a ban on jade and rubies that was rescinded in October last year and demand the return of refugees from Rakhine

AFP, WASHINGTON

US lawmakers on Friday proposed sanctions against Myanmar’s military in some of the strongest efforts yet by Washington to pressure the Southeast Asian nation to end abusive treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority.

House Republicans and Democrats introduced legislation that would curtail assistance or cooperation with Myanmar’s military and require the White House to identify senior military officials who would have US visa bans imposed or reimposed against them.

A bipartisan group in the Senate, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, introduced their bill on Thursday.

It calls for renewal of import and trade restrictions on Myanmar, including reimposing a ban on jade and rubies from the nation.

“Our legislation would hold accountable the senior military officials responsible for the slaughter and displacement of innocent men, women and children in Burma, and make clear that the United States will not stand for these atrocities,” McCain said in a statement.

The proposals came as US President Donald Trump departed for an extended trip to Asia, where he is to attend a summit with Southeast Asian nations including Myanmar.

The US, while condemning the deadly violence that has prompted more than 600,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, has been careful to say it holds the military responsible, not Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government.

House Democrat Eliot Engel said lawmakers want to send a “clear message” with the targeted sanctions, both to the military and the civilian leadership, about the violence that has left hundreds of people dead.

“This violence must stop, perpetrators must be held accountable and there must be meaningful civilian control over [Myanmar’s] military and security forces,” Engel said.

Lawmakers also want Myanmar’s military to ensure the safe return of refugees displaced from northern Rakhine State, where the military has been accused by the UN of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

“There will be consequences for their crimes against humanity,” Senator Ben Cardin said.

Myanmar officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dealers in the gem industry — a lucrative sector that was under US sanctions until October last year — shrugged off the threat, saying China was still the top buyer.

“If [sanctions] are reimposed, there will be no harm to us. We used to work under sanctions in the past as well,” Myanmar Gems and Jewelery Entrepreneurs Association secretary Tun Hla Aung said.

The fate of the legislation might rest in part with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime friend and ally of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The two politicians spoke by telephone in September, when she assured McConnell she was working to get aid to Rohingya.

McConnell defended her after the call, saying that “publicly condemning Aung San Suu Kyi, the best hope for democratic reform in Burma, is not constructive.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has been hammered by the international community for failing to use her moral power to speak up in defense of the Rohingya.

She on Thursday visited Rakhine for the first time.

McConnell’s office said he was reviewing the sanctions legislation. As Senate leader, McConnell determines which bills get to the floor for a vote.

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