As a “campaign of rape, killings and arson” proceeds, anti-Rohingya forces hail the election of Trump.

While the world remains distracted by President Elect Donald Trump’s deranged antics, President Barack Obama has quietly lifted a set of sanctions of the Myanmar government last month. The move represents a major step towards the normalization of relations with a regime openly involved in destroying one of the most marginalized groups in the world.

Over the past four years, the Burmese government, in cahoots with xenophobic Buddhist nationalist movements, has committed severe atrocities against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, displacing thousands and claiming the lives of dozens of innocent civilians. In the recent spat of violence, human rights groups have accused the Burmese army of having “conducted a campaign of rape, killings and arson” against the Rohingya.

Regarded as a courageous champion democracy and human rights by Western elites, Burmese State Counselor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi banned the use of the term Rohingya last year in a clear attempt to appease anti-Muslim elements in the country.

The Obama administration announced on December 2 the lifting of a ban that previously withheld American aid to the Buddhist majority country (receiving close to no coverage in mainstream press), justifying the move by asserting the country had made “substantial improvement in improving human rights”. The claim is perplexing considering the ongoing violent onslaught against the Rohingya people.

The American business lobby is also desperate to see trade sanction removed wherever possible. According to John Goyer, director for Southeast Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce told the Financial Times that with free and fair elections taking place and an allegedly “free media”, trade sanctions were no longer applicable.

“These were all benchmarks that the United States identified as key to moving the relationship forward,” he told the Times in May. “Those benchmarks have been met, and in our view, it is time to normalize the relationship”

Since diplomatic relations with Burma and the US resumed in 2012 after Burma’s first successful democratic election in 2011 after decades of military rule, Obama’s government has regularly collaborated with the Burmese government to boost corporate business ties between the two countries. This included the recent formation of the US-Myanmar partnership, a multi-sector corporate trade agreement announced in September this year when Suu Kyi was on her visit to the US.

According to a media note put out by the US State Department on November 15, an American delegation that arrived in Burma in to hash out the details of the initiative made no mention of the Rohingya but simply alluded to “exchanging views” on place around “Rakhine state issues”. The meeting took place at the height of the conflict, around the time the Burmese state suspended aid to Rohingya refugees provided by the UN.
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