A bipartisan group of five powerful lawmakers have introduced a legislation to impose sanctions on senior military officials of Myanmar who allegedly are involved in human rights violations against Rohingyas. Nearly 600,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since August 25 to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State where the army has launched a crackdown against militants. Myanmar does not recognise Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country. The proposal introduced by Senators John McCain, Ben Cardin, Dick Durbin, Marco Rubio and Todd Young, calls for targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on senior military officials of Myanmar responsible for the atrocities and systematic human rights abuses against the Rohingya people in the country. If passed by the Congress, the legislation would prohibit certain military cooperation with the military of Myanmar until the Departments of State and Defence can certify that officials have halted the violence. The bill would also support economic and security sector reform, and encourage Myanmar’s successful transition of power to a civilian government. “The systematic human rights abuses being committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar demand a strong response from the US and the international community,” said McCain.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee their homes, hundreds of villages have been burned, and scores of civilians have been killed in a campaign of violence that the United Nations has called a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing, he said. McCain said the legislation would hold accountable the senior military officials responsible for the slaughter and displacement of innocent men, women and children in Myanmar, and make clear that the US will not stand for these atrocities. According to Cardin, this full-blown humanitarian crisis is happening under the watch of the international community, and this bill will allow Congress to strengthen the President’s hand by making it clear to officials in Myanmar that there will be consequences for their crimes against humanity. The Myanmar military has engaged in a brutal campaign against the country’s Rohingya population, razing villages, raping women and killing innocent civilians, alleged Rubio.
Other Senators who have signed on this legislation are Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Dianne Feinstein, Brian Schatz, Tim Kaine, Chris Van Hollen, Tammy Baldwin, Cory Booker, and Jeanne Shaheen. Congressmen Eliot Engel, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Steve Chabot, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.