Myanmar sacks top general linked to Rohingya crisis

Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh on an improvised raft, on Nov 10, 2017. Myanmar’s leaders are under fire for taking little punitive action against its military.
Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh on an improvised raft, on Nov 10, 2017. Myanmar’s leaders are under fire for taking little punitive action against its military.PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON • Myanmar's military said it sacked a top general who was named in fresh EU sanctions against security officials accused of serious rights violations in the Rohingya crisis, including killings and sexual violence.

Myanmar is accused of waging a crackdown in Rakhine state that forced 700,000 people to flee that the United Nations and major Western powers have said amounts to ''ethnic cleansing''. Its leaders have come under fire for taking little punitive action against the military, which has maintained that its troops were responding to attacks by Rohingya militants.

But the military said 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.

The announcement came after the European Union said he 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 Maj-Gen Maung Maung 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''.

Maj-Gen Maung Maung Soe was also the target of US sanctions last year over the Rohingya crisis.

The statement added that Lieutenant- General Aung Kyaw Zaw - commander of the bureau of special operations and also on the EU list - was permitted to resign last month for health reasons and ''weakness in serving duty''.

Canada said on Monday it was also 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.''

Most Rohingya refugees have settled 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 more for the Rohingya, though supporters say she has little control over army actions.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2018, with the headline 'Myanmar sacks top general linked to Rohingya crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe