US sanctions on military will hinder civilian govt: Myanmar

YANGON • Proposed sanctions by the United States targeting Myanmar's military for its treatment of Rohingya Muslims would hinder the fledgling civilian government sharing power with the generals, a spokesman for de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday.

The Bill, introduced by members of the US Senate ahead of Mr Donald Trump's departure for his first trip to Asia since becoming President in January, seeks to reimpose some sanctions lifted last year as Myanmar returned to democracy.

The measure would impose targeted sanctions and travel curbs on Myanmar military officials as well as bar the US from supplying most assistance to the military until perpetrators of atrocities against the Rohingya in Myanmar's western Rakhine state are held accountable.

Responding to the moves in Washington, Ms Suu Kyi's spokesman, Mr Zaw Htay, told Reuters: "We need internal stability to improve the country's economy. Imposing international sanctions directly affects the people in travel and in business investments, and there are many bad consequences."

Myanmar officials would explain the government's efforts on Rakhine during a visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson scheduled for Nov 15, he added.

Mr Zaw Htay, who is a former army major, said the military, known as the Tatmadaw, had to be involved in Myanmar's transition to democracy.

Myanmar had previously been hit by sanctions over the military junta's brutal suppression of the then opposition led by Ms Suu Kyi, but Mr Zaw Htay stressed that the civilian government still has to work with the military.

"The country's reconstruction cannot be done only by the government. The Tatmadaw needs to be involved, it is very clear. Everything has to undergo negotiation with the Tatmadaw under the 2008 Constitution," he said, referring to the charter drawn up by the junta before Myanmar began its transition to democracy.

"Sanctions and pressures affect the government's work," he added.

"Of course, it will damage all the business investments, not only military-owned (businesses)... There can only be bad results."

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar since a military crackdown on Aug 25 that has led to reports of burnt villages and widespread killings. The United Nations has denounced it as ethnic cleansing.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2017, with the headline 'US sanctions on military will hinder civilian govt: Myanmar'. Subscribe