CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

US sanctions Tatmadaw over atrocities committed against Rohingya minority

27 October 2017

Key Points

  • The United States has imposed sanctions on the Tatmadaw for atrocities allegedly carried out against Myanmar's ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority
  • The move has halted a gradually emerging defence relationship between the United States and Myanmar, although Australia's defence relationship with the country continues

US demands for accountability and the imposition of sanctions targeted on the Myanmar military for atrocities allegedly carried out against the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority have closed the door on mutual hopes that the fledgling defence relationship between the two countries could soon be expanded.Having fled from their homes to escape persecution, Rohingya Muslim refugees walk from the ‘no-man’s land’ between Myanmar and Bangladesh into Palongkhali in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on 19 October. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images)Having fled from their homes to escape persecution, Rohingya Muslim refugees walk from the ‘no-man’s land’ between Myanmar and Bangladesh into Palongkhali in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on 19 October. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images)

A statement by the US State Department on 23 October noted bluntly that “it is imperative that any individual and entities responsible for atrocities including non-state actors and vigilantes be held accountable”. Washington had already dropped travel waivers on serving and former officials of the military (Tatmadaw), effectively banning them from visits to the United States.

The statement went on to note that Tatmadaw units and officers involved in operations in northern Rakhine state – where nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh amid reports of systematic killing, rape, and arson – would be ineligible to receive or participate in any US assistance programmes. It added that invitations for senior security force officers to attend US-sponsored events had been rescinded.

The statement was followed up on 26 October by a telephone call from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Underscoring the fact that Washington holds the military rather than the civilian government of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi responsible for events on the ground, Tillerson “urged Burma’s security forces to support the government in ending the violence … and allowing the safe return of those displaced”, according to a spokesperson.

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