Burma

US Sanctions on Military Are Targeted Political Pressure: Spokesman

By Htet Naing Zaw 12 December 2019

NAYPYITAW – Myanmar’s military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun has called the US Treasury Departments imposition of new sanctions against Myanmars top military leaders targeted political pressure.

“They ignore our strenuous efforts to address the Rakhine issue. We would ask them if they are intentionally putting targeted political pressure on us. Maybe the United States has its norms regarding the Tatmadaw [military],” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

On Tuesday, as the world marked Human Rights Day, the US Treasury Department imposed new sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, his deputy Vice-Senior General Soe Win, Major General Than Oo and Major General Aung Aung over alleged human rights abuses.

The new sanctions came as Myanmar faces genocide charges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The US Treasury Department said Myanmar’s military had committed “serious human rights abuses” under Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s command.

The new sanctions, based on the 2012 Magnitsky Act, freeze any US assets of the four commanders and criminalize financial transactions with them by anyone in the United States. In July, the US imposed its first sanctions, barring the four and their relatives from entering the country.

Political analyst Dr. Khin Zaw Win said the situation had become more serious as the US imposed fresh sanctions on Myanmar and that he heard more sanctions were coming.

“It is not political pressure. It highlights the abuses in operations in Rakhine State. And the actions by the military and the civilian government have not been very satisfactory. It is, in fact, a crime. And I have long called for cooperation with the UN,” he said.

As the Rakhine issue has been brought to the ICJ, international pressure on Myanmar will only grow, said ethnic Rakhine parliamentarian U Pe Than.

“Sanctions on individuals will not affect the country. I have nothing to say about sanctions on specific individuals, but I am concerned that there will also be sanctions on the country,” said U Pe Than.

Political columnist U Than Soe Naing accused the international community of ignoring the fact that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security outposts in Rakhine. But he confronted the accusations that the Tatmadaw had committed genocide against Rohingya.

“There may have been excessive use of force and killings by the Tatmadaw. It is reasonable to investigate and take action against those responsible in the Tatmadaw. But there must be strong evidence. You should not make judgments based only on the accounts of refugees in Cox’s Bazar [in Bangladesh],” said U Than Soe Naing.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh after Myanmar’s military launched counterinsurgency operations in response to attacks by ARSA in August 2017.

He said both the government and the military had failed to take proper punitive action against the perpetrators.

In November, the US claimed that the Myanmar military may have “a stockpile” of chemical weapons. The Tatmadaw denied the claim, saying it had no ambitions to possess chemical weapons.

“There is a need to take the historical context and geographical features into account. What happened in Rakhine State was not triggered by our security forces or by residents,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

“They have ignored these and put political pressure on us. The sanctions hurt the dignity [of the military],” he said.

The spokesman said it was not a coincidence that the sanctions were imposed while State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi led Myanmar’s defense against genocide charges at the ICJ.

“From the military point of view, there are no coincidences in politics and military affairs. There is only pre-planning,” he said.

The Myanmar Human Rights Commission is issuing its annual report soon and it will explain the Tatmadaw’s cooperation with the report.

In a US congressional hearing in June, Congressman Bradley Sherman, chairman of the Asia Pacific subcommittee, proposed recognizing Rakhine State as Bangladeshi territory in response to the stalemate over Rohingya repatriation.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been making attempts to conduct a full investigation into alleged crimes against the Rohingya.

Myanmar has not signed up to the ICC, but the court ruled in September that it has jurisdiction over the alleged atrocities because Bangladesh, where the Rohingya are now refugees, is a member.

The National League for Democracy government has also denied allegations of genocide against Rohingya.

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