U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and three other senior Myanmar military generals for travel sanctions for their roles in a 2017 army campaign that killed thousands of Rohingya and drove more 700,000 of the Muslim ethnic minority into Bangladesh.
Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo and Brigadier General Aung Aung were designated for their “responsibility for gross human rights violations, including in extrajudicial killings in northern Rakhine State, Burma, during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military. We designated these individuals based on credible information of these commanders’ involvement in gross violations of human rights,” he said. Burma is the British colonial name for Myanmar, which the United States officially uses.
Pompeo’s statement said the designated generals “and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.”
The U.S. move came almost a year after a fact-finding mission, working under a mandate from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council, said Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals, including the three listed by Pompeo, should be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and prosecuted for genocide.
“Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” said the report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which cataloged abuses in Rakhine, home to the Rohingya.
“They are shocking for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them,” said the UN report.
Attacks on guard posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya militant group, on Aug. 25, 2017, triggered a campaign of violence by Myanmar forces targeting the Rohingya, including killings, torture, rape, and village burnings in Rakhine. More than 700,000 Rohingya are stuck in camps in neighboring Bangladesh and most say they are afraid to return to Myanmar.
The Myanmar government has largely denied the national military’s involvement in atrocities against the Rohingya and has defended its activities as part of a legitimate counterinsurgency operation against ARSA.
Pompeo’s statement Tuesday said U.S. officials “remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country.”