U.S. sanctions Myanmar army chief over Rohingya 'ethnic cleansing'

Clay Curtis
July 19, 2019

The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions against Myanmar Army's Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and three generals for their alleged role in the "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims in the country, Reuters reported.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military.

Also sanctioned were Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo and Brigadier General Aung Aung as well as the families of all four officers.

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"With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military", said Mr Pompeo, who has been a strong advocate of religious freedom. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.

Attacks on guard posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya militant group, on August 25, 2017, triggered a campaign of violence by Myanmar forces targeting the Rohingya, including killings, torture, rape, and village burnings in Rakhine.

He said the soldiers had been lawfully released. More than 700,000 Rohingya are stuck in camps in neighboring Bangladesh and most say they are afraid to return to Myanmar.

Myanmar's military began a violent crackdown in late 2017 against the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority, in Myanmar's westernmost Rakhine State.

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On Wednesday, Haaretz reported that starting this month the Israeli Foreign Ministry will reject visas for Myanmar military officials as long as Myanmar remains under an worldwide arms embargo over its human rights violations. United Nations investigators determined that the violent campaign of arson, rape and murder was carried out with genocidal intent.

Rohingya refugees gather near a fence at the "no man's land" zone at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Maungdaw district, Rakhine State.

A senior State Department official told reporters in a teleconference that they believe the sanctions will stand as a "message to other Burmese officials that should they commit atrocities or other serious human rights abuses, there will be consequences under US law".

A Myanmar military spokesman, Brig.

"In order to truly promote accountability, the United States should also lead worldwide efforts to refer Myanmar to the global Criminal Court or to establish an ad hoc tribunal", Sullivan says. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, said the sanctions constituted a blow against the entire military.

These are not the first sanctions the US has imposed on those responsible for the atrocities against the Rohingya.

"Our hope is that these actions will strengthen the hand of the civilian government [and] will help to further delegitimise the current military leadership", an official said on condition of anonymity.

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