Sole person identified for sanctions over Myanmar crimes: Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a media availability with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, after their meeting at the Indian Foreign Ministry, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

The US says it may impose sanctions on a single person it has identified in connection with an internationally-criticized ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims, which has the backing of Myanmar’s government, military and entire Buddhist majority.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that Washington was considering “targeted sanctions” against those deemed responsible for the state-sponsored military crackdown, which, according to a new report, killed some 6,700 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar only in a period of one month beginning on August 25.

Myanmar’s military campaign in Rohingya-majority Rakhine State has also forced over 650,000 Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh since August.

During the past three months, government troops, apart from raping, have been committing killings, making arbitrary arrests, and carrying out mass arson of houses in hundreds of predominantly-Rohingya villages in the restive state.

The limited nature of any such US bans appear unlikely to satisfy international human rights groups and a number of lawmakers at home, who have slammed the cruel treatment of the Rohingya by Myanmar’s military as crimes against humanity.

This is while other nations as well as the UN have referred to Myanmar’s campaign against its Muslim minority as “ethnic cleansing” well before Washington did so in late November.

A Reuters report cited two US officials as saying that the Trump administration is only considering limited action against Myanmar to avoid upsetting the delicate political balance in the Asian nation, where the government, currently led by the long-time US-sponsored, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has to cope with an influential military.

“We have nothing to announce on sanctions,” said a White House National Security Council spokesman when asked about the coming measures, refusing to comment on the identity of the individual being considered for sanctions.

Preparations for the insignificant sanctions come as Washington has expressed concerns over arrests this week of two Reuters journalists by Myanmar’s authorities.

The reporters, identified as Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, had worked on stories regarding the military crackdown on the Rohingya population in Rakhine state.

Global backlash

The arrests have been met with criticisms from the UN, journalist groups and a number of countries, which have called for the pair’s immediate release.

The Reuters journalists had been arrested by Myanmar authorities after being invited to meet with police officials on the outskirts of Yangon. According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Information, the reporters “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media.”

On Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said, “We call on local authorities to immediately, unconditionally release Reuters reporters… These arrests come amid a widening crackdown which is having a grave impact on the ability of journalists to cover a story of vital global importance.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Myanmar also stated that it was “appalled” by the detentions and “gravely concerned” about the state of press freedom in Myanmar.

Additionally, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in neighboring Thailand emphasized that it was “alarmed by the use of this draconian law with its heavy penalties against journalists simply doing their jobs.”

Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, information adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also said, “We strongly denounce arrests of Reuters journalists and feel that those reporters be free immediately so that they can depict the truth to the world by their reporting.”

In Europe, President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani urged Myanmar to protect media freedoms and release the two journalists.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot called the arrests a “threat to a democratic and peaceful development of Myanmar and that region.”

British Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field also reacted to the detentions, saying, “I absolutely strongly disapprove of the idea of journalists, going about their everyday business, being arrested.”

Source: Press TV