What's universally agreed upon is that over 600,000 people from a minority Muslim group along Myanmar's northwestern border with Bangladesh have been driven out of their homes as a consequence of the Tatmadaw's crackdown on armed insurgents that the government classifies as terrorists. Where views being to differ, however, is over what to call the refugees, and whether they constitute a distinct ethnic group called "Rohingyas" or are just the descendants of Bangladeshi migrants. Moreover, it's unclear to what degree the Tatmadaw is responsible for the humanitarian crisis, but influential voices in the US are laying the blame solely at the military's feet and that's why they're pushing for sanctions.
The US had previously sanctioned Myanmar during its years of military rule but had recently lifted its restrictions as a reward for its democratic transition following the electoral victory of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in 2015 and her elevation to the newly created position of State Counsellor. Now, however, "The Lady", as she's affectionately known at home, has fallen out of favor with the West because of her inability — and some would even say, outright lack of desire — to influence the powerful Tatmadaw to scale back its operations in Rakhine State, and that's why some members of Congress are pressing for the reimposition of sanctions. Suu Kyi issued a statement through her spokesman condemning this possible move and warning of its "bad consequences" if the US goes through with it, implying that it would destabilize the country at a crucial moment in its history and complicate the civilian government's power-sharing agreement with the military.
Washington now finds itself having to balance humanitarian, democratic, and strategic interests in dealing with Naypyidaw, as it doesn't want to "lose" Myanmar to China like it did for approximately 25 years already in the past by being "too tough" on it, but at the same time the US has backed itself into the narrative corner where it's almost compelled to do something or another in response to the crisis in Rakhine State.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Khalid Ibn Muneer, Independent foreign affairs analyst, and Jewel, political commentator from Bangladesh.
Want to sound off and share what you think about this? Send us an email at email@example.com or find us on Facebook!