US Senate panel chairman dumps plans to expand military cooperation with Tatmadaw

The chairman of a powerful United States Senate committee has abandoned plans to support expanded military cooperation with Myanmar because of its treatment of the Rohingya, he said in a statement.

Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced the decision in Washington on September 12.

McCain said he would remove language from the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 that would have expanded military cooperation with Myanmar when the NDAA is debated in the Senate.

“While I had hoped the NDAA could contribute to positive reform in Burma, I can no longer support expanding military-to-military cooperation given the worsening humanitarian crisis and human rights crackdown against the Rohingya people,” McCain said in the statement.

The senator said he had been optimistic that the successful transfer of power to a civilian government in 2015 would provide an opportunity for greater engagement with the US.

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However, the circumstances had “changed dramatically” since the decision to expand military cooperation with Myanmar under the NDAA was made in June, McCain said.

“In just the last month, more than 370,000 Rohingya have fled their villages to escape persecution at the hands of the Burmese military – a campaign of violence and destruction that the United Nations has deemed a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’”, he said.

“The international community has called upon [State Counsellor] Aung San Suu Kyi – who has long been a source of inspiration for democracy –to stop the violence and hold human rights abusers accountable, but there has been no action to-date.”

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