Myanmar Fires General Sanctioned By EU For Attacks Against Rohingya

June 26, 2018
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by Priyanka Boghani Digital Reporter

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

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.

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