US envoy: Stop arms supply to Myanmar

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US envoy calls for countries to suspend providing weapons to Yangon over Rakhine violence

COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH/UNITED NATIONS: The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Nikki Haley, has called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar over violence against Rohingya Muslims.

It was the first time the US had called for punishment of Myanmar's military leaders behind the repression, but she stopped short of threatening to reimpose US sanctions which were suspended under the Obama administration.

Her call comes after more than 60 Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar are believed to have drowned late on Thursday when their boat capsized, the latest victims in what the UN says is the world's fastest-developing refugee emergency.

The refugees drowned in heavy seas off Bangladesh.

An official with the International Organisation for Migration said 23 people were confirmed dead and 40 were missing. Seventeen survived.

"We're now saying 40 missing, which suggests the total fatality rate will be in the range of 63," Mr Joe Millman, told a news briefing in Geneva.

Ms Haley told the UN Security Council: "We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be - a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority."

The US had earlier said the army response to the insurgent attacks was "disproportionate" and the crisis raised questions about Myanmar's transition to democracy, under the leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, after decades of military rule.

Ms Haley said the military must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

She said: "Those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and prosecuted for wrongdoing.

"And any country that is currently providing weapons to the Burmese military should suspend these activities until sufficient accountability measures are in place."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council the violence had spiralled into the "world's fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare".

Myanmar national security adviser Thaung Tun said at the UN there was no ethnic cleansing or genocide in Myanmar.

He told the Security Council that Myanmar had invited Mr Guterres to visit. A UN official said the secretary-general would consider visiting under the right conditions.

China and Russia both expressed support for the Myanmar government.

Myanmar said this month it was negotiating with China and Russia, which have veto powers in the Security Council, to protect it from any possible action by the council. - REUTERS

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