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US lawmakers unveil bill to punish Myanmar junta

They want the United States to do more to support the people's fight for democracy

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 06, 2021 09:00 AM GMT

Updated: October 06, 2021 09:08 AM GMT

US lawmakers unveil bill to punish Myanmar junta

A protester holds up a poster featuring Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in front of the Central Bank of Myanmar in Yangon in February. (Photo: AFP)

A group of bipartisan senators have introduced legislation in the US Congress seeking to increase pressure on Myanmar’s military junta for its actions during the Feb. 1 coup and its aftermath.

The Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021 was introduced on Oct. 5 by Democrat legislators Gregory W. Meeks from New York, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Benjamin L. Cardin from Maryland along with Steve Chabot, a Republican representing Ohio.

“Despite diplomatic pressure from the United States and the international community, the Burmese military has refused to cease its violence, release those unjustly detained or participate in meaningful dialogue with local stakeholders,” Meeks said in his statement.

Burma is the former name of the Southeast Asian nation and the bill aims to hold accountable those responsible for the perpetration of the coup and the ensuing atrocities that have claimed over 1,000 lives by authorizing targeted sanctions against the military, the State Administrative Council and their affiliated entities and conglomerates.

It also calls on the US to do more to support the Myanmar people's fight for democracy by authorizing support for civil society and humanitarian assistance and calls on the State Department to issue a genocide determination for the persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority.

Chabot said the military coup and the ongoing atrocities continue to be a direct attack on the people of Myanmar and their basic desire for self-government.

It is past time for the Biden administration to place sanctions on Myanmar’s state-owned gas company, which is the government’s largest source of foreign currency

“Self-government is not some sort of temporary arrangement or gift from the military. The people of Burma have had enough of military rule and, to their credit, have courageously stood up for their legitimate democratic aspirations,” he said.

Rights organization Global Witness has welcomed the move and urged Congress to pass the important legislation quickly as it will signal that the US supports the pro-democracy protest movement and wants justice for victims of recent and ongoing crimes, besides squeezing the military’s finances wherever possible.

The group said the legislation also puts in place a ban on jade and gemstone imports from Myanmar and authorizes secondary sanctions that allow the US government to target companies that continue to support the military regime.

“It is past time for the Biden administration to place sanctions on Myanmar’s state-owned gas company, which is the government’s largest source of foreign currency at over US$1 billion annually and is now under the military’s control. Congress has forced the administration to look again at the necessity of these sanctions through this important legislation,” Paul Donowitz of Global Witness said.

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The US and Western governments have imposed several sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders and their families after the military seized power by toppling the elected civilian government.

Despite sanctions, the junta’s brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protests and oppression against civilians continues across the country.

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