The US has slapped sanctions against Myanmar's chief of military and three other top officers for gross human rights violations, including killing of Rohingya Muslims and barred their entry into America.
Following the sanctions imposed on them on Tuesday, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo and Brigadier General Aung Aung along with their immediate family members have been banned from entering the United States.
“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," Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, said.
"We designated these individuals based on credible information of these commanders’ involvement in gross violations of human rights,” he said.
The US had in 2018 designated two other generals Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw and General Maung Maung Soe.
The United States remains concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, he said, adding that there are continued reports of the military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country.
Pompeo said that the recent disclosure that Hlaing ordered the release of soldiers responsible for the extrajudicial killings at Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas is an example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its top leadership.
Hlaing released the convicts after only months in prison, while the journalists who reported about the killings in Inn Din were jailed for more than 500 days, he said.
The massacre in Inn Din village in Rakhine state in September 2017 was a mass execution of Rohingyas by the Myanmar Army and armed locals. Two journalists were jailed for their coverage of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. They were released in May this year.
A senior State Department official later told reporters that US remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Burma, especially in conflict-affected areas in Rakhine as well as other violence-affected areas across the country such as Kachin and Shan states.
The official said that the release of the soldiers on the directions of Hlaing is a mockery of accountability for the military and its senior leadership.
Numerous credible international investigations, including those conducted by the US and the United Nations, have detailed the gross disproportionate violence, including ethnic cleansing, committed by security forces before and after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacks on August 25, 2017, the official said.
To date, the US has taken a number of actions to promote accountability for these atrocities, including the sanctioning of five Burmese generals and two military units for serious human rights violations in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states, the official said.
These four senior officials are well-known in the international community for gross human rights violations across the country over the past decade, the US official said.
Observing that Myanmar's military has a role to play as a national defence force, the State Department official said that however, under the command of Min Aung Hlaing, and often at his direct order, members of the Burmese military have committed appalling violations of human rights across the country.
“For the sake of his own reputation and that of the country, Burma’s military must cease such atrocities, hold those responsible to account, and pursue a path of reform,” the official said.