A leading international rights group has called for targeted sanctions and an arms embargo against the Myanmar military in response to an offensive that has sent over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh to escape what the United Nations has branded as ethnic cleansing.
The latest eruption of violence in the western Rakhine State of Myanmar, formerly Burma, began on Aug. 25, when insurgents belonging to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked police posts and an army camp, killing about 12 people. Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes responded with what they describe as a campaign of violence and arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects that, saying its forces are carrying out clearance operations against the insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which claimed responsibility for the August attacks and similar, smaller, raids earlier in October.
“Burmese security forces are committing ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya and disregarding the condemnation of world leaders,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “The time has come to impose tougher measures that Burma’s generals cannot ignore,” he said.
"The United Nations Security Council and concerned countries should impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to end its ethnic cleansing campaign," the New York-based international rights group said in a release. It also called on the Security Council to demand that Myanmar, allow humanitarian aid agencies to access people in need, permit entry to a UN fact-finding mission mandated to investigate violations in the country, and ensure the safe and voluntary return of those displaced.
About a million Rohingya lived in Rakhine State until the recent violence. Most face draconian travel restrictions and are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Myanmar government leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has faced a barrage of criticism from abroad for not stopping the violence and for her silence on the outrage. With the security forces of the country under the military, her position as State Counsellor, equivalent to a Prime Minister, is weak in a country with little sympathy for the Rohingya. Suu Kyi is due to make her first address to the nation on the crisis on Tuesday.
HRW has also called on the United States, the European Union and other governments to impose sanctions and other restrictions to pressure the Myanmar military and its leadership. (Source: Reuter)