1-24-2012By Sadia Hameed
Director, Crimes Against Humanity Program
Foreign governments and civil society groups are responding favorably to the new civilian regime in Myanmar, but the decades of military rule and its devastating impact on civilians cannot be overlooked. Even now against the backdrop of a promising reform agenda, the military continues systematic attacks on the Kachins and other ethnic minorities in the resource-rich regions bordering China. Reports reveal indiscriminate firing and shelling, the use of rape as a weapon of war, landmines, torture, and widespread displacement.
Over the past few years, the U.S. government’s response to the military regime in Myanmar has included the cessation of diplomatic ties, travel and visa bans, and economic sanctions on new investment by U.S. companies in the country. Although we welcome the decision to reinstate diplomatic ties, we strongly recommend that the United States maintain economic, financial and travel related sanctions as a means to clamp down on those who perpetrate—and enable—atrocities.
While we remain hopeful that the new regime will usher in democracy, unconditionally release all political prisoners and bring an end to decades of atrocities, we are still in early days. As Secretary Clinton stated on her return from Myanmar, the United States will respond to the new regime with “action for action.” The existing sanctions create leverage that the United States must use to push for an immediate end to atrocities.