Myanmar Fires General Sanctioned By EU For Attacks Against Rohingya

An aerial view of the exodus of Rohingya people fleeing violence in Myanmar.

An aerial view of the exodus of Rohingya people fleeing violence in Myanmar.

June 26, 2018

Myanmar’s military fired one of the generals in charge of last year’s operation that drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from the country. The move came shortly after the European Union and Canada announced travel bans and asset freezes against Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Soe and six other military and police officials on Monday.

The officials were sanctioned for their “involvement in or association with atrocities and serious human rights violations committed against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State in the second half of 2017,” according to an EU Council statement. “These violations include unlawful killings, sexual violence and the systematic burning of Rohingya houses and buildings.”

The United States had sanctioned Maung Maung Soe last December, after then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson determined the situation in Myanmar was ethnic cleansing. Yanghee Lee, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights for Myanmar, has said the military’s actions carried the “hallmarks of genocide.”

But in its statement, the military said Maung Maung Soe had been fired for showing “weakness” in handling terrorist attacks against the military.

In Myanmar’s Killing Fields, footage secretly filmed by Rohingya citizen activists corroborated with the firsthand accounts of witnesses and survivors depicted an orchestrated campaign targeting civilians, including stories of people having their throats slit, women and girls being raped, villages being burned to the ground and babies being thrown into fires.

The military has maintained that the campaign was a counter-insurgency clearance operation targeting a militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA.

“They didn’t check who is good and who is bad,” Nurul Islam, a resident of the village of Dar Gyi Zar, told FRONTLINE in the documentary. “To them, we are all ARSA. Only one thing matters to them — we are Muslims and they are not. They just shot anyone they saw.”

Myanmar’s military has not accepted any wrongdoing against civilians in the campaign, which was launched last August after ARSA attacked police posts and an army base in northern Rakhine.

A statement from Myanmar’s office of the commander in chief of defense services, Min Aung Hlaing, said the general showed “weakness” in handling militant attacks on police outposts in 2016 and 2017, according to The Washington Post. The statement said Maung Maung Soe displayed “shortcomings in timely response to the early warnings of the use of force and lawless acts” by ARSA.

Most of the estimated 700,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar are in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. While Myanmar has agreed to repatriating Rohingya refugees on paper, the process has yet to begin. When the government claimed it had repatriated five members of a Rohingya family in April, Bangladesh and the U.N.’s refugee agency said they were not involved in the case, with a Bangladeshi official calling the event “propaganda.”

Correction: This piece has been edited to clarify that Myanmar’s military has denied wrongdoing against civilians in its campaign in Rakhine.

Priyanka Boghani

Priyanka Boghani, Deputy Digital Editor, FRONTLINE



More Stories

18 Essential Documentaries on Afghanistan and the Taliban
One year after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan amid the U.S. withdrawal, watch these documentaries that reveal what life in the country is like now and that offer context on the nearly two-decade war that became America's longest.
August 15, 2022
What’s the Status of Healthcare for Women in Afghanistan Under the Taliban?
Before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, many women and girls were already struggling to receive adequate healthcare. A year later, the situation has worsened, sources told FRONTLINE.
August 9, 2022
‘Say to the Whole World, They Don’t Let Us Talk’: Women Held for ‘Immoral Behavior’ at a Taliban Prison Speak Out
In the FRONTLINE documentary ‘Afghanistan Undercover,’ Ramita Navai reports the Taliban has jailed women for ‘immoral behavior’ and held them without trial. Watch an excerpt.
August 9, 2022
The Disconnect: Power, Politics and the Texas Blackout
In February 2021, days-long blackouts in Texas left millions shivering in the dark. Hundreds died. How has the Texas grid changed since then? And how has it changed how people think?
August 4, 2022