US says Myanmar army responsible for Rohingya crisis

A newly arrived Rohingya Muslim boy, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, carries his belonging in the rain in Palong Khali, Bangladesh, on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 19 October 2017
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US says Myanmar army responsible for Rohingya crisis

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday the United States held Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its harsh crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Tillerson, however, stopped short of saying whether the United States would take any action against Myanmar’s military leaders over an offensive that has driven more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country.
Washington has worked hard to establish close ties with Myanmar’s civilian-led government led by Nobel laureate and former dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in the face of competition from strategic rival China.
“The world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area,” Tillerson told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
“We really hold the military leadership accountable for what’s happening,” said Tillerson, who said the United States was “extraordinarily concerned” by the situation.
Forty-three US lawmakers urged the Trump administration to reimpose US travel bans on Myanmar’s military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown.
The request, in a letter to Tillerson from Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives, said Myanmar authorities “appear to be in denial of what has happened” and called for Washington to take “meaningful steps” against those who have committed human rights abuses.
Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar in large numbers since late August when Rohingya insurgent attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape.
Tillerson said Washington understood Myanmar had a militancy problem, but the military had to be disciplined and restrained in the way it dealt with this and to allow access to the region “so that we can get a full accounting of the circumstances.”
“Someone, if these reports are true, is going to be held to account for that,” Tillerson said. “And it’s up to the military leadership of Burma to decide, ‘What direction do they want to play in the future of Burma?’“
Tillerson said Washington saw Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, as “an important emerging democracy,” but the Rohingya crisis was a test for the power-sharing government.
He said the United States would remain engaged, including ultimately at the United Nations “with the direction this takes.”
The European Union and the United States have been considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leadership.
Punitive measures aimed specifically at top generals are among a range of options that have been discussed, but they are wary of action that could hurt the wider economy or destabilize already tense ties between Suu Kyi and the army.
Tillerson also said he would visit New Delhi next week as the Trump administration sought to dramatically deepen cooperation with India in response to China’s challenges to “international law and norms” in Asia.
Tillerson said the administration had began a “quiet conversation” with some emerging East Asian democracies about creating alternatives to Chinese infrastructure financing.


Britain identifies Russians suspected of Skripal nerve attack — report

Updated 19 July 2018
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Britain identifies Russians suspected of Skripal nerve attack — report

LONDON: British police have identified several Russians who they believe were behind the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the Press Association reported on Thursday, citing a source close to the investigation.
Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, and his daughter Yulia, were found unconscious on a public bench in the British city of Salisbury on March 4.
Britain blamed Russia for the poisonings and identified the poison as Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.
After analyzing closed-circuit television, police think several Russians were involved in the attack on the Skripals, who spent weeks in hospital before being spirited to a secret location, Press Association reported.
“Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack,” the unidentified source close to the investigation said, according to PA.
“They (the investigators) are sure they (the suspects) are Russian,” said the source, adding security camera images had been cross checked with records of people who entered the country.
A police spokesman declined to comment on the report.
After the attack on the Skripals, allies in Europe and the US sided with Britain’s view of the attack and ordered the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.
Russia retaliated by expelling Western diplomats. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement and accused the British intelligence agencies of staging the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.
Mystery surrounds the attack.
The motive for attacking Skripal, an aged Russian traitor who was exchanged in a Kremlin-approved spy swap in 2010, is still unclear, as is the motive for using of an exotic nerve agent which has such overt links to Russia’s Soviet past.
Novichok put the Skripals into a coma, though after weeks in intensive care they were spirited to a secret location for their safety.
“My life has been turned upside down,” Yulia Skripal told Reuters in May. “Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful.”
A British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died this month after coming across a small bottle containing Novichok near the city of Salisbury where the Skripals were struck down. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, is still in hospital.
A British police officer was also injured by Novichok while attending to the Skripals in March.