US says it is considering sanctions over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya

Rohingya Muslim woman, Rukaya Begum, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, holds her son Mahbubur Rehman, left and her daughter Rehana Bibi, after the government moved them to newly allocated refugee camp areas, near Kutupalong, Bangladesh, on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 24 October 2017
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US says it is considering sanctions over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya

WASHINGTON: The United States is taking steps and considering a range of further actions over Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority, including targeted sanctions under its Global Magnitsky law, the State Department said on Monday.
“We express our gravest concern with recent events in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured,” it said in a statement.
It added: “It is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.”
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.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday the United States held Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Tillerson 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 600,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country, mostly to neighboring Bangladesh.
The State Department made the announcement ahead of US President Donald Trump’s maiden visit to the region early next month when he will attend a summit of ASEAN countries, including Myanmar, in Manila.
It marked the strongest US response so far to the months-long Rohingya crisis but came short of applying the most drastic tools at Washington’s disposal such as reimposing broader economic sanctions suspended under the Obama administration.
Critics have accused the Trump administration of acting too slowly and timidly in response to the Rohingya crisis.
The State Department said on Monday: “We are exploring accountability mechanisms available under US law, including Global Magnitsky targeted sanctions.”
Measures already taken include ending travel waivers for current and former members of the military in Myanmar, also known as Burma, and barring units and officers in northern Rakhine state from US assistance, it said.
“We have rescinded invitations for senior Burmese security forces to attend US-sponsored events; we are working with international partners to urge that Burma enables unhindered access to relevant areas for the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission, international humanitarian organizations, and media,” the statement said.
In addition, Washington is “consulting with allies and partners on accountability options at the UN, the UN Human Rights Council, and other appropriate venues,” it said.

AIMED AT TOP GENERALS?
Interviews with more than a dozen diplomats and government officials based in Washington, Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, and Europe have revealed that punitive measures aimed specifically at top generals were among a range of options being discussed in response to the Rohingya crisis.
Such measures could include the possibility of imposing asset freezes and prohibiting American citizens from doing business with them.
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.
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 Magnitsky Act, originally passed in 2012, imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials linked to the 2009 death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian whistleblower. It has since been expanded to become the Global Magnitsky Act, which could be used against the generals in Myanmar. 


Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

Updated 14 min 16 sec ago
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Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

  • Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state
  • A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, blaming its regional partner for a rise in militancy and growing security concerns.
Shortly after the BJP withdrew support from the coalition it formed in early 2015, Mehbooba Mufti, head of its alliance partner the People's Democratic Party (PDP), resigned as the state’s chief minister.
The state will now be ruled by the governor until elections take place.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that continuing in government had become “untenable.”
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech,” he said. “There is grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state.”
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over territorial rights. In past months there have been several outbreaks of violence. More than 130 people have been killed in the state this year and at least 120 men have joined extrremist groups.
The BJP move came a day after New Delhi ended a cease-fire against militants for Ramadan.
Last week, extremists shot and killed the editor of a local Kashmiri newspaper and abducted and killed a Kashmiri soldier on his way home to celebrate Eid.
Experts say a political split has been on the cards.
“For the BJP it had become impossible to continue,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Ideologically, the two are completely different parties.”
By aligning with PDP — viewed by many as a soft separatist party because it supports talks with Pakistan — the BJP lost face with its Hindu right-wing base, he said.
“But the biggest loser is the PDP. Mufti has no face left, no political mileage, and she will have no stakes in Jammu and Kashmir whenever fresh elections take place.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has now strengthened its rule in the state since the governor does what New Delhi tells him, Jacob said. That includes appointing advisers suggested by the BJP to act as de-facto ministers until a new government is formed.
“They are the victors here,” said Jacob.
Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state.
“We had always said muscular security policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. The state can’t be treated as enemy territory. Reconciliation is the key,” she told The Indian Express.
The BJP-PDP alliance, the report quoted her saying, was not for power but to get confidence-building measures put in place.
A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire. At the time, BJP’s state unit said the truce would “demoralize security forces.”