US senator seeks to punish Myanmar over Rohingya crisis

US Senator John McCain speaks at the 2016 Arizona Manufacturing Summit. Photo: Gage Skidmore

US Senator John McCain announced yesterday that he will remove language from a bill that would have expanded American military cooperation with Myanmar.

The Republican from Arizona made the announcement in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by Myanmar’s military operations in Rakhine State, in which nearly 400,000 people have been displaced.

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain authored fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act bill, which sets the budget for US defense and national security spending. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill this week.

“I can no longer support expanding military-to-military cooperation given the worsening humanitarian crisis and human rights crackdown against the Rohingya people, and will seek to remove this language when the Senate begins debating the NDAA,” McCain announced.

The provision would have given Myanmar more opportunities to receive training from the US in maritime security and combating human trafficking.

Last week, McCain and three Democrats introduced a resolution calling on Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene on behalf of the Rohingya.

“But there has been no action to date,” McCain said.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not support McCain’s bipartisan resolution.

“I don’t favor passing a resolution going after her,” McConnell said. “I think she’s the greatest hope we have to move Burma from where it has been, a military dictatorship, where I hope she is going.”

“My personal view is America is kind of singling her out and lecturing while she is in a very challenging position is not helping,” McConnell said.

The Trump White House has also stopped short of criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi, though it did release a statement on Monday claiming that “Burmese security forces are not protecting civilians.”

The statement called on the Myanmar military to “respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities.”

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