The United States on Monday said that it would withdraw military assistance to Myanmar and consider imposing new sanctions on the country as its response to the ongoing Rohingya crisis. This comes as the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled the violence in the country rose to six lakh this week.
“We express our gravest concern with recent events in Rakhine State and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in the statement. “It is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.”
The State Department has so far ended travel waivers for current and former members of the military in Myanmar, barred units and officers in northern Rakhine state from US assistance and revoked invitations for senior Myanmar security forces to attend US-sponsored events. Washington, however, did not reimpose broader economic sanctions on the country that were suspended under the Barack Obama administration.
On October 18, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for the crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, Reuters reported. Tillerson, however, did not say if the United States was considering action against Myanmar’s military leaders.
The growing refugee crisis
The Rohingyas have been fleeing Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state since security forces launched an operation in response to attacks allegedly carried out by militants in August. The latest group of refugees who arrived in Bangladesh this week described brutal violence in their villages and food shortage. The descriptions of violence were consistent with a UN Human Rights office statement earlier this month that the brutal attacks were aimed at preventing Rohingyas from returning home.