Washington: A key senate committee has passed a legislation seeking to impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar's senior military officials responsible for human rights violations against Rohingya community who fled the country to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape violence.
Authored by Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin, the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act now moves to the Senate floor for vote.
A similar legislation needs to be approved by the House of Representatives before it can be signed into law by the US President.
The US continues to call Myanmar with its previous name Burma.
The bill proposes to prohibit certain military cooperation with the military of Myanmar until the Departments of State and Defence can certify that officials have halted the violence.
It would also support economic and security sector reform, and encourage Myanmar's successful transition of power to a civilian government.
It is co-sponsored by more than a dozen other Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
In a joint statement, McCain and Cardin said ultimately, it is up to the people of Myanmar to decide what the fate of their country and democracy will be.
But the US Congress should not be complicit spectators to ethnic cleansing and gross human rights violations.
"For too long we have said 'never again', but failed to act with resolve when confronted by mass atrocities. Congress has historically played an important role in promoting human rights and democracy in Burma and it is time for us to step up again and provide leadership to support a successful transition to democracy," the statement added.
The two lawmakers said the administration doesn't have to wait for this law to pass.
It has already used existing authorities to impose restrictions on one key officer implicated in the abuse and should take this cue from Congress to target other leaders now.
"The world has come to realise that the Myanmarese government - and in particular its military - are in a state of outright obstruction with respect to international calls to address the crimes committed in Rakhine State and will not take steps to address the past atrocities unless real world consequences make it impossible for them not to," they said.
"The committee's action today demonstrates to the world, and in particular to the Burmese military, that the US will not ignore these atrocities. We encourage our colleagues in the Senate to help us enact this important measure into law," the Senators concluded.
Observing that the scale of human rights abuses against the Rohingya people and other minority communities in Burma has been staggering, McCain said the United States has a moral obligation to do all it can to prevent mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing and to make clear to those responsible that their actions will not be tolerated.
The passage of the legislation is a step in the right direction to protect Burma's fledgling democracy and hold accountable the senior military officials responsible for the slaughter and displacement of more than 680,000 innocent Rohingya men, women and children.
"It makes clear that the United States will not stand for continued atrocities and will support all Burmese peoples in their struggle for freedom and democracy," said McCain, who is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
This legislation if signed into law will make it easier for the administration to impose sanctions on the Burmese military leaders who are implicated in some of the worst atrocities facing the international community in a generation.