Blinken Says US Considering New Myanmar Sanctions


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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was considering tough new sanctions on Myanmar to pressure the country’s military leaders to restore a democratic path interrupted by a coup in February.

Blinken said the situation in Myanmar in the 10 months since the coup had “worsened” with mass arrests and violence against protesters. And he said the administration was also seeking “very actively” to designate the ongoing crackdown on Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim population as “genocide.”

“I think it will be very important in the weeks and months to come to consider the additional steps and measures that we can take individually, collectively to put pressure on the regime to put the country back on a democratic course,” said Blinken.

Blinken made the comments Wednesday in Malaysia, where he is on the second leg of a trip to three countries in Southeast Asia. His Malaysian counterpart said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must act as well, saying the regional grouping needs to do an “introspection” on its policy towards member Myanmar.

“In short, we need to look at what additional steps, steps could be taken to move things in a better direction and that is something we are looking into,” Blinken told reporters at a press conference with the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Saifuddin Abdallah.

Blinken was asked specifically about potential sanctions against Myanmar’s state-run oil and gas sector, but did not mention the possibility in his response. However, he raised the possibility of a determination of genocide.

“We also continue to actively review the determinations of actions taken in Myanmar and whether they constitute genocide and this is something that we are very actively reviewing at this time,” Blinken said.

He reiterated his demands that the Burmese junta release all those who have been “unjustly detained”, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, allow unhindered humanitarian access to areas in need of assistance, end the violence against the protesters and put Myanmar “back on its way.”

Responding to the same question, Abdullah said Malaysia believes ASEAN needs to take a more consistent stance regarding Myanmar. The 10-nation group has long adopted a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of its members and often refused to take action against them.

“I understand that we are celebrating the principles of non-interference, but… ASEAN should also consider the principle of non-indifference, because what is happening in Myanmar is already coming out of Myanmar,” he said, noting that Malaysia now hosts nearly 200,000. Rohingya refugees.

“We need to do some soul-searching,” he said, expressing hope that a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in January would be able to clarify the group’s position on Myanmar and state clear requirements and milestones for the country’s military to meet with a specific timeline to meet them.

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