The U.S. have banned Myanmar’s top general, several senior officers and their families from entering the States, in response to accusations of gross violations of human rights against Rohingya Muslims. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated there was credible evidence to suggest that the Burmese officials were complicit in the atrocities levelled against the minority population. According to the BBC, the move was allegedly prompted by Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s decision to release soldiers convicted of extra judicial killings at the village of Inn Din in 2017. This prompted outrage as they had spent less time than two Reuters journalists investigating the massacre, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been sentenced to 16 months in prison for obtaining state secrets.
Mr. Pompeo stated that, “we 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.” In a statement, he said that the U.S. was “the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military.” On the other hand, BBC Myanmar correspondent, Nick Beake has suggested that the ban is largely symbolic and the U.S. government could have taken further measures such as imposing financial sanctions on military-owned assets.
In agreement with Mr. Pompeo, granting the implicated generals entry into the U.S. would indirectly protect the perpetrators of what has been called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the UN. As the first country to do so, it will set an example for other like-minded countries to follow suit, particularly as these generals await trial for their actions.
In 2017, almost 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar into neighbouring countries to escape the military-led crackdown targeting the Muslim minority population. The BBC reports that Myanmar government claimed that it was acting in retaliation to attacks by Rohingya militants. Altogether, there are approximately one million Rohingyas in Bangladesh, most of which have been housed in the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee camp, Kutupalong. To date, no Rohingyas have been repatriated back to Myanmar, despite an agreement between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. This remains unlikely in the near future until the political situation in Myanmar improves dramatically, and housing and infrastructure is restored to an acceptable level, according to the Economist. Until then, the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar continue to debate the legal status of the Rohingya Muslims, the world’s largest ‘stateless’ people.
To conclude, the public condemnation of several Burmese top generals is a step in the right direction towards achieving justice for those in charge of the world’s large-scale ethnic cleansing in recent times. Despite this, more needs to be done to bring these generals to trial and bring them to justice. Furthermore, significant actions need to be taken to begin the healing process, including improving relations between Rohingya Muslims and the military, repatriating the Rohingyas back to Myanmar and alleviating the strain of the refugee influx in Bangladesh.
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