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NAYPYIDAW – A major new UN report has concluded that Myanmar’s military leaders, including its top commander, need to be further investigated and potentially prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against Rohingya Muslims. The report follows a fact-finding mission and comes in the wake of a violent crackdown last year which forced more than half a million refugees to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The report’s findings will do nothing to dispel concerns of apparel brands, among them Gap, H&M and M&S sourcing from Myanmar. A source in the country told us that, privately, many apparel brands sourcing from Myanmar have expressed deep concern about the atrocities that have taken place and continue to monitor the situation closely. Moreover, further unrest in the country raises the spectre of the reimposition of economic sanctions.

Indeed, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser earlier this year called for the re-imposition of sanctions against Myanmar in the wake of accusations of genocide. “We have to re-impose the sanction because the sanction was removed as a good will and a gesture of good behaviour to come from Myanmar,” Gowher Rizvi said. “Without pressure, nothing will happen. Myanmar won’t be secure for the Rohingyas.”

The new UN report says condemns the “gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine, and Shan states,” and suggests they “stem from deep fractures in society and structural problems that have been apparent and unaddressed for decades.”

It follows a yearlong investigation conducted by a three-member panel. This draws on 875 in-depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, satellite images, and verified documents, photographs, and videos. The report documents an array of crimes including murder, enforced disappearance, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, and sexual slavery.

The report argues that six leaders of the Myanmar military bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes. It also claims State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, “has not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine State.”

Among recommendations, it says: “The international community, through the United Nations, should use all diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to assist Myanmar in meeting its responsibility to protect its people from genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.”

Statistics released by Myanmar’s Ministry of Information show the country achieved US$1.6bn from Cut-Make-Pack (CMP) garment exports in the first 11 months of the 2017 fiscal year, a sharp increase of US$1bn over the same period of a year earlier. The CMP garment sector plays a significant role in contributing to Myanmar’s economic development, ranking as the country’s third largest export category.


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