The US and six other nations on Friday issued a joint statement calling on the international community to suspend all assistance to the Burmese military, and expressing grave concern over reports of human rights abuses by Myanmar’s security forces.
The statement came as fears of an escalation of violence grow in the Southeast Asian nation, whose army is attempting to crush an increasingly active armed opposition movement seeking to end military rule.
“We are concerned about allegations of weapons stockpiling and attacks by the military, including shelling and airstrikes, use of heavy weapons, and the deployment of thousands of troops accompanying what security forces assert are counterterrorism operations, which are disproportionately impacting civilians,” the statement said.
It said the rights abuses include “credible reports of sexual violence and torture,” and highlighted the country’s northwest, where tens of thousands of people have been reported to have been displaced by government attacks.
The countries issuing the statement — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, the UK and the US — already have embargoed arms sales to Myanmar, whose army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February. They also have instituted targeted diplomatic and economic sanctions meant to pressure the ruling generals behind the takeover.
Although such measures harm Myanmar’s economy, they have done little to help restore democracy and peace.
China and Russia are allies of the military-installed government, and as members of the UN Security Council, have effectively blocked concerted international action to isolate the generals. Beijing and Moscow are also the top suppliers of arms to Myanmar.
Friday’s statement, released by the US Department of State, applauded a consensus declared earlier this month by the UN Security Council, which called for “the immediate cessation of violence, protection of civilians, and full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access.”
The consensus, issued as a press statement, has no binding power and falls short of the influence a formal resolution would carry.
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