LUXEMBOURG – The European Union imposed sanctions on seven senior military officials from Myanmar on Monday, including the general in charge of an operation accused of driving nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.
The seven face asset freezes and are banned from traveling to the EU, after the bloc extended an arms embargo and prohibited any training of, or cooperation with Myanmar’s armed forces.
The sanctions, first reported by Reuters in April, also mark a shift in diplomacy by the EU, which suspended its restrictive measures on the Southeast Asian country in 2012 to support its partial shift to democratic governance in recent years.
But the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, which the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing by the military, has soured relations. Yangon rejects all accusations of wrongdoing.
Last December, the United States imposed sanctions in response to the crackdown on the Rohingya minority in Rakhine. These included sanctions on Major General Maung Maung Soe, who was transferred late last year from his post as the head of Western Command in Rakhine, where Myanmar’s military launched a sweeping counter-insurgency operation in August.
“He is responsible for the atrocities and serious human rights violations committed against (the) Rohingya population in Rakhine State by the Western Command during that period,” the EU said in a statement.
Thant Zin Oo, the commander of the Eighth Security Police Battalion, was also sanctioned. The EU accused him of “serious human rights violations (that) include unlawful killings and systematic burning of Rohingya houses and buildings.”
Five other senior military staff were named, all generals.
Canada also sanctioned senior military officials in February, when Reuters also reported on events in the village of Inn Din where 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys were hacked to death by Rakhine Buddhist villagers or shot by security force members.
The killings were part of the larger army crackdown on the Rohingya. Two Reuters journalists were jailed while reporting the story and remain in prison in Yangon, where they face up to 14 years behind bars for violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act.
By Robin Emmott – Reuters