US sanctions Myanmar forces for 'human rights abuses'


18 August, 2018 08:53 AM

US sanctions Myanmar forces for 'human rights abuses'

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The U.S. Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on members of the Myanmar security forces for their alleged role in violent campaigns against ethnic minorities across the troubled nation in Southeast Asia.

Myanmar security forces have engaged in ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.  "Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader U.S. government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering."

The Trump administration earlier imposed sanctions on the chief of Myanmar's western military command, but has faced pressure from human rights groups and lawmakers to impose more sanctions on those involved in a crackdown that began in August 2017 in western Rakhine State where 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fled brutal army operations.

The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the target of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove more than 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remained until last year's violence.

The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights. Myanmar, however, has staunchly denied that its security forces have targeted civilians in so-called clearance operations in Rakhine State on Myanmar's west coast.

Friday's action sanctions four commanders with the Myanmar military and border guard police plus two military units for their alleged involvement in ethnic cleaning in Rakhine and other human rights abuses in Burma's Kachin and Shan states. Those sanctioned are: military commanders Aung Kyaw Zaw, Khin Maung Soe, Khin Hlaing and Thura San Lwin; and members of the 33rd and 99th light infantry divisions.

The sanctions block any property they own within U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with them.