YANGON—The British government on Monday imposed sanctions on the Myanmar military’s commander-in-chief and his deputy for alleged human rights abuses against the Rohingya people in Rakhine State and other groups in the country.
The UK foreign secretary said the sanctions targeted Myanmar’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and deputy commander-in chief, Vice Senior General Soe Win, over their involvement in “systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities”. Along with the Myanmar military, another 47 individuals and organizations involved in some of the most notorious alleged human rights violations and abuses in recent years have been targeted under a powerful new sanctions regime established by the UK, it said.
The UK government said the move aims to stop people who are involved in serious human rights abuses and violations from entering the country, channeling money through UK banks, or profiting from the UK economy.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape military operations that the UN has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The Myanmar military denies these allegations, insisting the crackdown was a response to coordinated attacks on security outposts in Rakhine State by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
A British Embassy spokesperson said, “These sanctions target specific individuals involved in serious human rights violations, as highlighted by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. The designations are not aimed at countries or governments.”
“The UK remains committed to supporting Myanmar on its path towards a more peaceful, prosperous society. We will continue to work with the civilian government to help achieve this, including through our substantial support from UK aid to help the poorest and most vulnerable in Myanmar,” the spokesperson said.
Military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy the UK’s move to impose sanctions was politically motivated. He said the Myanmar military has been fully accountable for its operations in Rakhine and their impact on the humanitarian situation there.
“We have publicized all the information related to Rakhine transparently,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.
The Myanmar military was recently criticized by local and international rights activists and legal experts for failing to reveal any details of its prosecution of three army personnel for the killing of 19 Rohingya in Gutar Pyin Village in northern Rakhine State during the August 2017 clearance operation.
Monday’s announcement marks the first time the UK has sanctioned people or entities for human rights violations and abuses under a UK-only regime, and will allow the UK to work independently with allies such as the US, Canada, Australia and the European Union (EU). The individuals and organizations are the first wave of designations under the new regime, with further sanctions expected in the coming months, it said.
In April, the EU decided to keep sanctions in place against the 14 top-ranking Myanmar security personnel. The US also implemented targeted sanctions against Myanmar military leaders including Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing last December for alleged human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other groups. The sanctions freeze any US assets held by the targeted individuals and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
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