Bangkok: A United Nations fact-finding mission urged Tuesday that countries cut off all business with Myanmar's military as part of efforts to hold the army accountable for human rights abuses.
The independent investigators, working under a mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, said in a statement that there has been no progress toward resolving the crisis over Myanmar's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority, more than 1 million of whom have fled military "clearance operations" in the northwest Rakhine region.
"The situation is at a total standstill," said Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
Myanmar authorities have razed deserted Rohingya villages and members of the minority remaining in the country live in displacement camps and in fear of further military reprisals.
"Due to the gravity of the past and continuing violations, attention must be given to the political, economic and financial ties of the Myanmar military to identify who and what should be targeted so we can cut off the money supply as a means of increasing the pressure and reducing the violence," Christopher Sidoti, a member of the mission, said in the statement.
The mission found that the military has committed atrocities against many ethnic groups living within Myanmar. It also faulted armed ethnic groups for committing human rights abuses.
Myanmar denies allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine, saying its security forces have not targeted civilians and have taken action only in response to attacks by Rohingya militants.
UN officials and others have likened the actions to ethnic cleansing, or even genocide.
The Fact-Finding Mission is to hand its findings to a new group of the Human Right Council, the Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar, in September. That organisation was set up to handle criminal prosecution of violations of international law.
The crisis in Rahkine has soured Myanmar's relations with the United States, which had rolled back economic sanctions over the past decade to support political change in the country as it transitioned toward democracy.
The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on Myanmar security forces and Washington has barred Myanmar military officials involved in the Rakhine operations from US assistance.
Britain has also cut some support. The UN and independent rights advocates want governments to do more to hold the military accountable.
No major Western powers make sales or provide aid directly to Myanmar's military. But the military has holding companies in several major civilian economic sectors, and in some cases, Western countries allow business to be done with companies in which the army holds a stake, contributing to its revenues.
Any effort to stop the flow of money to the country's military is likely to fall short because of Myanmar's close relationship with China, which maintains no sanctions and as its top trade partner accounts for about one-third of all imports and exports, in addition to being a leading investor.
China is also by far the top supplier of arms to Myanmar, according to statistics published by the Swedish International Peace Research Institute. Russia and Belarus, also without sanctions against Myanmar, were the second and third biggest suppliers of arms from 2014 to 2018, according to the institute.