File Photo: EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom (Reuters)
The European Union is sending a fact-finding mission to assess whether to impose trade sanctions on Myanmar over human rights abuses and has told Cambodia it will lose its preferential trade status, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said on Friday.
Malmstrom said the mission to Myanmar was to look into a potential withdrawal of its "Everything but Arms" (EBA) status, which allows the world's poorest countries to sell any goods tariff-free into the EU, except weapons.
"We cannot exclude this outcome. The reason is the blatant violation of human rights in Myanmar," she told a news conference after a meeting of trade ministers in Innsbruck, Austria.
The move confirms news Reuters reported on Wednesday that the European Union was considering sanctioning Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis.
A recent UN report accused Myanmar's military of gang rapes and mass killings with "genocidal intent" in Rakhine state and called for its commander-in-chief and five generals to be prosecuted under international law.
Myanmar has denied most of the allegations in the report, blaming Rohingya "terrorists" for most accounts of atrocities.
On Cambodia, the EU said in July that it risked losing its preferential trade status after elections decried by the West as neither free nor fair returned the country's strongman to power after 30 years in office.
Malmstrom said an EU mission had already been to Cambodia. "I have notified Cambodia today that we will launch the procedure for withdrawal of EBA. Without clear and demonstrable improvements this will lead to suspension of trade preferences," she said