Myan­mar says mil­i­tary 'dig­nity' harmed by US ban on army chief

Mizzima Business Weekly - - NEW ROUNDUPS -

AUS travel ban on Myan­mar army chief Min Aung Hlaing over his role in or­ches­trat­ing a mil­i­tary crack­down in Rakhine state harms the dig­nity of the mil­i­tary, a spokesman said on 17 July, ad­ding crit­ics failed to prop­erly un­der­stand the cri­sis.

The sanc­tions against the army chief and three other top mil­i­tary brass were the strong­est cen­sure from a western power since the army launched its of­fen­sive against the Ro­hingya in Au­gust 2017 fol­low­ing at­tacks on po­lice posts.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said Tues­day ac­cused se­nior mil­i­tary fig­ures of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in­clud­ing ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings dur­ing the al­leged "eth­nic cleans­ing" of the state­less mi­nor­ity when more than 740,000 were driven into Bangladesh.

But mil­i­tary spokesman and Bri­gadier Gen­eral Zaw Min Tun said the cam­paign was in self-de­fence, and they had car­ried out their own in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

"Our ac­tions should be re­spected,” he said, ad­ding that the sanc­tions "harmed the dig­nity of the mil­i­tary".

He said the US mis­un­der­stood the his­tory of the fight­ing in Rakhine state where the Ro­hingya crack­down oc­curred.

"The mil­i­tary car­ried out our duty to pro­tect the lives of eth­nic mi­nori­ties and to pro­tect the re­gion.”

Myan­mar does not recog­nise the Ro­hingya as one of its many of­fi­cial eth­nic­i­ties, in­sist­ing they are in­ter­lop­ers from Bangladesh.

The US, Canada and the Euro­pean Union have passed sanc­tions against mem­bers of the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary be­fore but stopped short of reach­ing the very top of lead­er­ship.

But rights groups and UN in­ves­ti­ga­tors have called for stronger ac­tion against Min Aung Hlaing -- in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional prose­cu­tion for geno­cide. Pom­peo said in his state­ment that the US re­mains con­cerned the Burmese gov­ern­ment had taken no ac­tion against rights vi­o­la­tors.

He cited the "egre­gious" ex­am­ple of the re­lease of sol­diers who mas­sa­cred 10 Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

The sol­diers spent only a few months in prison -- less time than two Reuters jour­nal­ists who ex­posed the mas­sacre and were be­hind bars for more than 500 days on state se­crets charges.

The sanc­tions against Min Aung Hlaing, deputy com­man­der-in-chief Soe Win, bri­gadier gen­er­als Than Oo and Aung Aung also ap­ply to their im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­bers.

Min Aung Hlaing has yet to com­ment on the moves and has re­mained de­fi­ant as ac­cu­sa­tions mount.

In a rare in­ter­view in Fe­bru­ary, he said there was "no cer­tain proof that the na­tional army was in­volved in the per­se­cu­tion" of Ro­hingya.

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