US Secretary of State Voices Support for Individual Sanctions Against Security Forces

By The Irrawaddy 15 November 2017

YANGON — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States would consider individual sanctions against security forces found responsible for human rights abuses against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.

More than 600,000 Rohingya are now in refugee camps in Bangladesh after fleeing the Myanmar military’s clearance operations since August when a Rohingya militant group attacked 30 police outpost in northern Rakhine State, citing accounts of arbitrary killings, rapes and arson by the security forces.

To seek accountability from the army, the US announced sanctions against Myanmar’s military leadership last month, ceasing travel waivers for current and former senior leadership of the Burmese military while assessing authorities to consider economic options available to target individuals associated with the atrocities. The restrictions also include all units and officers involved in operations in northern Rakhine State to be ineligible to receive or participate in any US assistance programs.

Rex Tillerson was in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw on Wednesday to meet with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu kyi and military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

During a joint press conference with Daw Aung San Suu kyi in the afternoon, Tillerson said all of the individual sanctions have to be evidence based.

But the Secretary of the State said he would not advise “broad-based economic sanctions” against the entire country.

“If we have credible information that we believe to be very reliable that certain individuals were responsible for certain acts that we find unacceptable, then targeted sanctions on individuals very well may be appropriate,” he said.

While reaffirming the US commitment to Myanmar’s transition and condemning the Rohingya militant attacks in August, Tillerson also called for a credible investigation into human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims committed by Myanmar’s security forces.

“We’re deeply concerned by credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces and by vigilantes who were unrestrained by the security forces during the recent violence in Rakhine State,” he said.

But the Myanmar Army denied the atrocities in the internal investigation released on Monday.

After the meeting, a Facebook post of Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said he explained to Tillerson the real situation on the ground in Rakhine, the reasons behind the exodus, the military’s cooperation with the government, repatriation and delivering aid.