EU Mulls More Measures Against Myanmar Army Over Rakhine

By The Irrawaddy 17 October 2017

YANGON — The European Council will review “all practical defense cooperation” with the Myanmar Army and may consider additional measures if the situation in Rakhine State does not improve.

“In the light of the disproportionate use of force carried out by the security forces, the EU and its member states will suspend invitations to the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar armed forces and other senior military officers and review all practical defense cooperation,” it stated on Monday in its conclusions on Myanmar adopted by the EU Council.

The statement highlighted current EU restrictive measures including an embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression in Myanmar. The EU may consider additional measures if the situation does not improve but also stands “ready to respond accordingly to positive developments,” according to the statement.

Tensions in Rakhine reached a tipping point when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked police stations and an army base on Aug. 25 in what it called a move to obtain rights for self-identifying Rohingya.

Thousands of Arakanese were internally displaced by the militant violence and an ensuing army crackdown forced about 534,000 self-identifying Rohingya to flee for Bangladesh.

The European Council follows the British government’s suspension last month of its training program with the Myanmar Army in light of the army’s security operations in Rakhine State, which have been dogged by allegations of human rights abuses against the self-identifying Rohingya.

The EU Council called on all sides to bring an immediate end to the violence and urged the Myanmar Army to end its operations and ensure the protection of all civilians without discrimination.

The council said it would support the Myanmar government in order to ensure the “swift and full” recommendations of former UN chief Kofi Annan’s commission on the state, including the “crucial issue of citizenship for the stateless Rohingya population.”

The council added the EU would continue its work helping the government address the challenges of its democratic transition.

“When so many people are displaced so quickly this strongly indicates a deliberate action to expel a minority. Therefore it is of utmost importance that refugees can return in safety and dignity,” it stated.

It reiterated its call on the government to defuse tensions between communities and grant full, safe and unconditional humanitarian access without delay, including for UN, ICRC, and international NGOs.

The council also urged the government to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s independent international Fact-Finding Mission and to allow it full access to the country without delay.

The EU Council’s adopted conclusions also called the government to restore humanitarian access to all communities affected by conflicts in Kachin and Shan states, including to 100,000 internally displaced people.