Portraits of the world’s most persecuted minority.
Myanmar’s military has fired a top general who was named in a fresh European Union sanctions against security officials accused of serious rights violations against the Rohingya minority, including killings and sexual violence.
The military, also referred to as Tatmadaw, announced late on Monday in a Facebook post that Major General Maung Maung Soe, the former head of the western command in Rakhine, had been “purged” for poor performance.
Since August last year, more than 700,000 Muslim-majority Rohingya have been forced to flee Rakhine state after military launched security operation against one of the most persecuted cummunities in the world.
The army said the operation was in response to deadly attacks carried out by an armed Rohingya group.
The announcement came after the EU said Soe was among seven security officials hit with travel bans and asset freezes, but Myanmar did not link his sacking to the new sanctions.
The Facebook post said Soe was first reassigned last November, and that his removal from his position in the western command was to “inspect his responsibility over his weakness while working for Rakhine state stability”.
The brutal military operation has forced tens of thousands of Rohingya to take refuge in the neighbouring Bangladesh, in what the United Nations said amounts to “ethnic cleansing”.
The government has come under fire for taking little punitive action against the military, which has maintained its troops were responding to attacks by Rohingya armed groups.
Soe was among the target of US sanctions last year over the Rohingya crisis.
The government statement also said that Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw – commander of the bureau of special operations and also on the EU list – was permitted to resign in May for health reasons and “weakness in serving duty”.
The latest development comes also comes just a day after Canada announced it was imposing sanctions against the same seven figures named by the EU.
The EU said the individuals were targeted because of their “involvement in or association with atrocities and serious human rights violations committed against the Rohingya population in Rakhine state in the second half of 2017”.
“These violations include unlawful killings, sexual violence and the systematic burning of Rohingya houses and buildings.”
The EU sanctions will freeze the assets of the officers and prohibit them from travelling to any European member state.
Most of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees are living in squalid camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, and say they are too afraid to return to Myanmar though both countries have signed a repatriation deal.
Many refugees say they will not return without a basic guarantee of protection.
The UN signed a deal with Myanmar this month to allow its agencies to assess conditions on the ground in Rakhine state, which they say are not yet ripe for a safe and voluntary return.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced global criticism for not standing up for the Rohingya, though supporters say she has little control over army actions.