Southeast Asia

U.S. considers more Myanmar sanctions

Published : December 16, 2021 16:08 IST

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, that more steps need to be taken against Myanmar's military junta. Photo: Jai Huzaini/Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affair via AP/picture alliance

The Secretary of State says the U.S. is also looking at designating repression against the Rohingya as "genocide."

The U.S. is looking at additional measures to force Myanmar's ruling junta to return to a "democratic trajectory." Speaking in Malaysia on December 15, the latest stop on his tour of Asia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the situation in Myanmar had "gotten worse." "The long and short of it is, we have to look at what additional steps, measures could be taken to move things in a better direction," Blinken said.

He did not say what exact steps the U.S. might be considering, but added they are "very actively" considering whether the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in the country might "constitute genocide." His issue, however, comfortably predates this year's coup in Myanmar, having come to international attention during civilian-led rule.

Myanmar's worsening crisis

The military seized control of the Southeast Asian country in February, ousting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's democratically elected government. The coup triggered nationwide protests, to which the junta has responded with a brutal crackdown that has left more than 1,300 people dead and seen thousands arrested. The United Nations warned of an "alarming escalation" of human rights abuses as the military tries to crush dissent. Last week, Suu Kyi was sentenced to two years in prison for incitement against the military junta and for breaking coronavirus restrictions. She is facing several other charges that could see her jailed for life.

Regional intervention

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking with Blinken at a joint press conference, said he hoped the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a gathering in January could set out clear demands and deadlines for the country's military to meet. "I understand that we celebrate the principles of noninterference, but [...] ASEAN should also look at the principle of nonindifference, because what happens in Myanmar is already getting out of Myanmar." Malaysia is hosting nearly 200,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar in recent years. Blinken said ASEAN leaders had been invited to hold talks at a special summit with President Joe Biden next year.

lo/msh (AP, Reuters)

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