- REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
Lawmakers are demanding Myanmar’s exclusion from US-led military exercises in neighboring Thailand next week amid pressure for more American sanctions in response to atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar’s planned participation in the Cobra Gold exercise, which starts Feb. 13, comes as its security forces are accused of killing hundreds if not thousands of civilians and burning down villages after Rohingya militant attacks last summer. More than 680,000 Rohingya – loathed in majority Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship – have fled to Bangladesh.
“Simply put, militaries engaged in ethnic cleansing should not be honing their skills alongside U.S. troops,” Sen. John McCain, the Republican chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Associated Press.
That makes the country’s involvement in Cobra Gold all the more controversial although Myanmar has taken part before. The exercises are America’s largest, annual multi-nation drills in the Asia-Pacific. The Pentagon says up to three officers from Myanmar are being invited as observers.
In November 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson characterized Myanmar security forces’ treatment of the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing.
“These abuses by some among the Burmese military, security forces, and local vigilantes have caused tremendous suffering,” Tillerson said. “After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.”