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US sanctions Myanmar army chief over Rohingya

July 17, 2019

The sanctions represent the strongest step that the US has taken in response to massacres in Myanmar. Recent reports have pointed to the military's role in enabling violence against the minority Muslim group.

Ten Muslim Rohingya men in the village of Inn Din
Image: Reuters/Handout

The US State Department announced on Tuesday that it would sanction Myanmar's army chief Min Aung Hlaing and other members of the military for their involvement in violence that caused 740,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh last year.

"We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

"There are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country," he added.

A Buddhist-majority country, Myanmar, once known as Burma, has refused to grant the mostly Muslim Rohingya community citizenship or basic rights.

Read more: Myanmar's democracy is letting down a young generation

Pompeo referred to a recent disclosure that Min Aung Hlaing had ordered the release of soldiers convicted of extrajudicial killings at the village of Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2017.

This was "one egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership," he said.

The Inn Din massacre was uncovered by two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They spent 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets as a result of their reporting. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.

Nobel laureate not on sanctions list

Notably absent from the US sanctions list was Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's top civilian official.

The Nobel laureate has drawn criticism from Western admirers for not speaking out about the abuses.

A State Department study released last year said the violence against Rohingya, which has included rape and the burning of villages, has been "extreme, large-scale, widespread and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents."

jcg/amp (Reuters, AFP)

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