At the United Nations last month, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called for a tough international response to alleged atrocities against Rohingya by security forces in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State. Haley, who said that “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,” demanded that all nations stop sending arms to the Myanmar military. Congress was on the same page. A week earlier, Senator John McCain had already declared that he would pull language in the annual defense authorization bill that would have boosted military to military ties with the Myanmar army.
Other countries, too, have laid into the Myanmar military in recent weeks, as the horrific exodus from Rakhine State continues—over 500,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled into Bangladesh since late August. But the tough words today about the Myanmar army leadership are a sharp reversal for most developed democracies. For more on how countries have recently—and perhaps unwisely—courted the Myanmar military, see my new piece in The Atlantic.