The United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights says the mounting evidence of military-perpetrated atrocities against Rohingya Muslims could constitute worldwide criminal law's most serious charge.
An army-led crackdown has forced some 626,000 people to flee from northern Rakhine state and across the border into squalid camps in Bangladesh in recent months, leaving hundreds of villages burned to the ground.
The measure broke little new ground but did instruct the United Nations human rights office to assess the level of cooperation of Myanmar's government with United Nations rights monitors and other experts.
A resolution in the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress said the sanctions should cover "those responsible for human rights abuses, including members of Burma's military and security services".
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The rights chief then asked: "Considering Rohingyas' self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture - and [that they] are also deemed by the perpetrators themselves as belonging to a different ethnic, national, racial or religious group - given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?"
With his government in the spotlight, the ambassador said the priority should be on returning displaced people to Myanmar's Rakhine state.
Zeid, who has described the campaign in the past as a "textbook case of ethnic cleansing", was addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council called by Bangladesh.
Genocide is defined by the United Nations as "acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".
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The UN first defined it in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday condemned the violent oppression of Myanmar's Rohingya and called on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Myanmar's military.
Myanmar's government rejects the term Rohingya, labelling the community "Bengalis". After the latest wave of arrivals it now hosts more than a million Rohingya.
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