Myanmar, Bangladesh set up working group for Rohingya return

Myanmar, Bangladesh set up working group for Rohingya return”

Myanmar's military cracked down on Muslim Rohingya from Rakhine State following August 25 Rohingya militant attacks on an army base and police posts.

He is the first high-level military officer to be named in the sanctions for overseeing the campaign of atrocities against the Rohingya.

The law was a follow-on to a similarly named law passed in 2012 created to punish such people only in Russian Federation.

Maung Maung Soe was until November the military commander in Rakhine, and the United States said he was responsible for "widespread human rights abuse, " citing credible evidence of mass killings, rapes and villages being burned.

Administration officials have been nervous about punishing Myanmar's government, fearing that broader sanctions could jeopardise the country's fragile transition to democracy after decades of repressive military rule.

"Today, the United States is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the U.S. financial system, " Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

"Treasury is freezing their assets and publicly denouncing the egregious acts they've committed, sending a message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds", he said.

"The Government has repeatedly denied violations of human rights are occurring throughout Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State". "He should clearly be sanctioned for his role in committing atrocities against the Rohingya".

"With 6,000 dead and thousands more raped, beaten and displaced, it is clear Maung Maung Soe has not acted alone", said Rep Joe Crowley, a Democrat from NY.

The UN has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world, calling the situation in Rakhine similar to "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

"The fact that these listings were made reflects the reality that despite many disagreements in Washington about the USA government's role in promoting human rights, there is a bipartisan consensus the United States government can and should act to hold human rights abusers to account", said Mr John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

New York-based American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a New York-based organization dedicated to human rights and poverty eradication around the world, also welcomed the new sanctions but insisted that the US must do more to stop attacks against the Rohingya and achieve justice for them.

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In addition, officials said, non-US foreign banks are often loathe to do business with blacklisted individuals in case their own United States operations are exposed to prosecution.

The Myanmar army has previously issued a report denying all allegations of rape and killings by security forces. Ties expanded further as Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi rose to power.

Surveys of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh by aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres have shown at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state in the month after violence flared up on Aug 25, the aid group said last week.

Earlier this week, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued satellite images showing 40 Rohingya villages destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine state since October and November, while Myanmar and Bangladeshi officials were discussing a plan to repatriate refugees.

The violence in Rakhine began on August 25 after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base in the state.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry is also reportedly exploring other routes to deliver humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees, who have purportedly faced ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country.

Since then, they have distributed almost 1,000 alarms to refugees - mainly women and children, but also the elderly and others vulnerable to abuse.

"I feel safer and less scared now after receiving this, because now I know that if I encounter any problem, I can call for help", Khatun said, gesturing to the device in her hand.

Expressing concern over the government's bilateral agreement with Myanmar on Rohingya repatriation, Md Mahmudul Hasan, founder of ICM, said it is not clear that how many Rohingyas would be taken back and unless there is any pressure from the world leaders, Myanmar may not take them back at all.

Myanmar continued to destroy Rohingya villages just days after signing a refugee resettlement deal, according to a rights group. Translated by Khet Mar.

Reported by Thinn Thiri and Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA's Myanmar Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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