ADDS US STATE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE IN GRAFS 6-8
By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Rohingya rights organizations have called on the US and France to impose sanctions on gas revenue in Myanmar, claiming that the military junta is using the money earned from the natural resource to commit "genocide."
"We ... urge President Biden of the United States of America and President Macron of France to urgently introduce sanctions on gas revenue in Burma (Myanmar)," said the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), an umbrella organization of 21 rights groups worldwide, in a statement released late on Thursday.
It said gas extraction projects, involving American firm Chevron and French Total, provide hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the Myanmar military annually.
It also warned that the money generated through the gas sector was aiding the military junta in Myanmar, where it is perpetrating crimes against humanity that include the killing of children and indiscriminate bombings of villages.
"So far, both President Biden and President Macron have blocked sanctions on the gas industry, protecting the profits of American and French companies ahead of the lives of Burmese people. This urgently needs to change," the statement added.
Asked about the appeal, a State Department spokesperson told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity that while the US would not preview any forthcoming sanctions, the Biden administration "will continue to target those responsible for the assault on Burma’s democracy and the revenue streams that fund the military regime."
Those funds, the spokesperson said in an email exchange, "facilitate the purchase of arms used to commit brutal violence against the people of Burma," noting any forthcoming sanctions will be calibrated to ensure they do not harm the people of Myanmar or the wider region. The US government refers to Myanmar as Burma.
"Since the military coup d’etat on February 1, 2021, we have announced several rounds of designations to specifically target current or former members of the military who played a leading role in the overthrow of Burma’s democratically elected government. In total, the U.S. government has sanctioned 58 individuals and 20 entities," they added.
After the coup, the US, EU, UK, and Canada imposed a number of sanctions on the military's sources of income, including timber and gems. "But gas production, which is one of the military's biggest revenue sources, has so far gone untouched."
"We Rohingya had to witness the genocide of our people go largely unpunished by the international community," added the statement.
According to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency, more than 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed since Aug. 25, 2017, while more than 34,000 have been thrown into fires, over 114,000 have been beaten, and up to 18,000 Rohingya women and girls have been raped.
Nearly 1.2 million persecuted Rohingya Muslims have been living in the crammed makeshift tents in Bangladesh's southern district of Cox's Bazar mostly of whom fled the August 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
The statement added that the lack of accountability prompted the Myanmar military to believe they could get away with the military coup. "They are now attacking people all over Burma, killing children, burning villages and torturing with impunity."
The statement underlined the plight of Southeast Asian country's people in the aftermath of the military takeover, stating that 300,000 have been forced to evacuate their homes since then. "It all echoes what the Rohingya have had to suffer at the hands of the military, and we are standing in solidarity with our fellow brothers and sisters across Burma."
*Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington