US sanctions Myanmar officials over 'ethnic cleansing' of Rohingya Muslims

US sanctions Myanmar officials over 'ethnic cleansing' of Rohingya Muslims
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Treasury Department officials said Friday that the Trump administration imposed sanctions on several top Myanmar military and police commanders amid what it calls the "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya Muslim population.

The Treasury Department sanctioned four military and police commanders, as well as two army units, over alleged involvement in the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the country, according to a statement from the department.

The move represents the toughest measure taken, so far, by the U.S. in response to Myanmar's actions, Reuters reported

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“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,” said Sigal Mandelker, under secretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, using an alternate name for Myanmar.

“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 added. “The U.S. government is committed to ensuring that Burmese military units and leaders reckon with and put a stop to these brutal acts."

The move was praised by international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, which called the Trump administration's move a "long overdue" step to confront ethnic cleansing by military in the Buddhist-majority country.

“The imposition of these targeted sanctions against key Burmese commanders responsible for atrocities against the Rohingya is an important but long overdue step,” Rich Weir, a Human Rights Watch researcher, told Reuters.

“The avoidance of the top military leaders is striking,” he added. “The likelihood that they did not know what was happening is close to infinitesimal.”

Myanmar also faces criticism for the imprisonment of two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are on trial for their work reporting on the massacre of 10 Rohingya men. Both are charged with violating a state secrets law and have pleaded not guilty.