Human Rights Watch urged world leaders to impose sanctions on Myanmar’s military, which is accused of driving out more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims in an orchestrated ethnic cleansing campaign.
The call came as the UN General Assembly prepared to convene in New York, with the ongoing crisis in Myanmar billed as one of most pressing topics.
The mass exodus of Rohingya refugees to neighboring Bangladesh has billowed into an humanitarian emergency as aid groups struggle to provide relief to a daily stream of new arrivals, more than half of whom are children.
There are acute shortages of nearly all forms of aid, with many Rohingya huddling under tarps as their only protection from monsoon rains.
Myanmar’s government hinted Sunday that would not take back all who fled across the border, accusing those refugees of having links to militants whose raids on police posts in August set off the army backlash.
Human Rights Watch also called for the “safe and voluntary return” of the displaced as it urged governments around the globe to punish Myanmar’s army with sanctions for the “ongoing atrocities” against the Rohingya.
“The United Nations Security Council and concerned countries should impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to end its ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims,” the group said in a statement.
It called on the UN General Assembly to make the crisis a priority, urging countries to issue travel bans and asset freezes on Myanmar officers implicated in the abuses, as well as expand arms embargoes.
“Burma’s senior military commanders are more likely to heed the calls of the international community if they are suffering real economic consequences,” said John Sifton, HRW’s Asia advocacy director.