US sanctions Myanmar officers for rights abuses

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Friday sanctioned four Myanmarese military and border guard commanders, as well as two military units, for "ethnic cleansing" in Rakhine State and other rights abuses in Kachin and Shan states.

“Burmese security forces have engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority communities across Burma, including ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights abuses,” according to Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

“Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader U.S. government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide scale human suffering.”

She was using the U.S. government's preferred name for Myanmar.

Among those designated by the Treasury Department are Aung Kyaw Zaw, the leader of Myanmar's Bureau of Special Operations; Khin Maung Soe, the leader of the Myanmarese Military Operations Command; Thura San Lwin, the head of Myanmar's border guard and Khin Hlaing, the chief of Myanmar's 33rd Light Infantry Division (LID).

The division as well as the 99th Light Infantry Division were also designated. Both are accused of engaging in "serious human rights abuse." The 99th division is accused of carrying out the violations in Shan and Rakhine states while the 33rd division is accused of engaging in rights abuses in Rakhine State.

"The 33rd LID is designated for engaging in serious human rights abuse. The 33rd LID participated in abuses in Rakhine State, including the August 27, 2017 operation in Chut Pyin village. This operation included extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, and sexual violence, as well as firing on fleeing villagers. Hundreds were reportedly killed in this one operation alone," said the Treasury Department.

"Members of the 33rd LID, along with other security forces, also participated in operations in Inn Din in August and September 2017. Nearly all of the thousands of Rohingya residing in Inn Din were driven out of the village," it added.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmarese forces launched a crackdown on the minority Rohingya Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

At least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

The Treasury Department accused the Myanmarese military of using "many of the same tactics against a number of other ethnic and religious minority groups" in Kachin and Shan states.