U.S. Hits Burma Military With Sanctions for Human Rights Abuses

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
August 17, 2018World News

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on four Burma military and police commanders and two army units for involvement in what it called “ethnic cleansing” and other human rights abuses against the country’s Rohingya Muslims, the Treasury Department said.

“Burmese security forces have engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority communities across Burma, including ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

“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,” Mandelker said.

A Rohingya woman recounts the horror of being raped and set on fire by Myanmar soldiers
Rohingya refugee Mumtaz Begum, 30, becomes emotional as she touches the wounds she received when the military set her house on fire after raping her and killing her husband in the Aug. 25 attack on the Tula Toli village in Burma. The photo was taken on Dec. 2, 2017, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

The sanctions marked the toughest U.S. action so far in response to Burma’s crackdown on the Rohingya minority.

The Trump administration earlier imposed sanctions on the chief of Burma’s western military command, Gen. Maung Maung Soe, who stands accused of ordering ethnic cleansing.

“Today, the United States is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the U.S. financial system. Treasury is freezing their assets and publicly denouncing the egregious acts they’ve committed, sending a message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a Dec. 21, 2017, U.S. Department of the Treasury press release.

Rohingya refugee Dildar Begum, 30, recovers from her wounds alongside her 10-year-old child at the Sadar city hospital on September 15, 2017 in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
Rohingya refugee Dildar Begum, 30, recovers from her wounds alongside her 10-year-old child at the Sadar city hospital on Sept. 15, 2017, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Paula Bronstein/Getty)

Following last year’s actions, human rights groups and lawmakers continued to call on the administration to impose more sanctions in the wake of ongoing atrocities.

Brutal Burma army operations that began in August 2017 have displaced more than 700,000 Rohingya, who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, leaving thousands of dead behind.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigators accuse the Burmese army of carrying out a systematic campaign of killing and rape in the Rohingya village of Tula Toli in Rakhine State on Aug. 30, 2017.

Violence erupted on Aug. 25 when a group of Rohingya militants torched police checkpoints in Rakhine.

An HRW report released on Dec. 19, 2017, detailed victims numbering in the hundreds.

“Hassina and other survivors described to Human Rights Watch how the soldiers had then separated the women and children from the men, confined the women to the shallow water of the river, and systematically murdered the men over the course of several hours,” the report reads, referring to an account by Hassina, a female villager who was raped by soldiers and then knifed and left for dead.

“The soldiers then turned to the women and children. Soldiers took some women and children away as soon as the men were killed, and others while the soldiers were still digging the pits and disposing of the bodies. They began killing some of the children at the beach, tossing young children into the river,” the report said.

HRW released satellite footage on Feb. 22 that it said showed the destruction of Rohingya villages in Maungdaw, Burma, between Jan. 8 and Feb. 19.

According to HRW, the video demonstrated that the Burmese regime had been bulldozing “scores of depopulated Rohingya villages.”

HRW said that while most of the 55 villages that had been cleared were among the 362 villages that had been damaged by arson since August 2017, at least two of the cleared villages were undamaged and were probably inhabitable.

Rohingya refugees cross the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar
Rohingya refugees from Burma, after receiving permission from the Bangladeshi army, continue on to refugee camps, in Palang Khali, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Oct. 19, 2017. (Jorge Silva/Reuters/File Photo)

Despite widespread evidence of violence, it has been the subject of debate within the U.S. government whether the actions of the Burmese military should be qualified as crimes against humanity or genocide.

Burma’s military has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and said its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.

The U.S. Treasury action blocks any property the military members subject to the sanctions own within U.S. jurisdictions and prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with them.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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