The US is considering imposing fresh sanctions against the Myanmar government for its handling of the Rohingya crisis. The State Department said it is weighing a range of measures, including targeted sanctions, under the US' Global Magnitsky Act.
As many as 600,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled the Southeast Asian nation to neighbouring Bangladesh since late August. The Myanmar military has been accused of launching a violent campaign against the ethnic minority community, who have faced decades-long persecution in the Buddhist-majority nation. The Magnitsky Act allows the US president to not only place target sanctions on individuals and entities, but also to revoke visas.
In a statement issued on Monday, 23 October, the Trump administration said it has already lifted travel waivers to former and current military leaders. "We express our gravest concern with recent events in Rakhine state and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
"It is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable," she said, adding that Washington is also exploring other options to clamp punitive measures.
Military leaders involved in the operations in northern Rakhine state – from where the mass exodus of Rohingyas has taken place – will no more be eligible to participate in US assistance programmes and will not qualify for American aid.
"The government of Burma [Myanmar's former name], 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," said the State Department.
Earlier, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had made it clear that the US holds the Myanmar military responsible for the treatment of Rohingya Muslims. However, he did not explicitly say whether Washington would take any concrete action against Myanmar.
The latest announcement is the first indication that the Trump administration would bring back the economic sanctions, which were withdrawn when the country moved towards democracy from decades-long junta rule.