European Union as well as Canada have in coordination announced sanctions against seven senior Myanmar officials over the Rohingya crisis. Some experts have stated that the Rohingya crisis is tantamount to “ethnic cleansing”.
The western coastal Rakhine state of Myanmar has faced turmoil since the 1982 Citizenship Act left scores of Rohingya Muslims stateless in the predominantly Buddhist country. When Burma received independence it did not list the Rohingyas among the country’s 135 ethnic groups. Waves of refugees have been fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh as the Burmese military instigated violence in 2012 and 2015, culminating in ethnic cleansing in August of 2017. Rohingya refugees reported killings, burnings, looting and rape, in response to militant attacks on security forces.
A fresh bout of violence erupted in Myanmar on August 25th, 2017. Over 620,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the region as a direct result of it. Those who fled the region under dangerous circumstances have since claimed that the nation’s armed forces were involved in activities such as burning homes and attacking women and children. The government and the military of Myanmar have denied such claims.
The international community has expressed its concern over the plight of the Rohingya Muslims and the escalating violence. For the first time in eight years, the UN held its first public meeting on the situation. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the violence in the region has "spiraled into the world's fastest-developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare." He added, “We've received bone-chilling accounts from those who fled, mainly women, children and the elderly.”
Most of Rohingya Muslim refugees fled to Bangladesh where many now reside in refugee camps. They have since spoken out about gruesome violence that they managed to escape by braving dangerous journeys. Rakhine State occupies the northern coastline of Myanmar up to the border with Bangladesh and corresponds to the historical Kingdom of Arakan.
Doctors without Borders have revealed that at least 9,000 Rohingya Muslims had been killed between August and September due to this violence.
Now, the European Union and Canada have imposed sanctions on seven individuals from Myanmar. This includes the general in charge of an operation accused of driving nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the targeted sanctions today, along with the European Union, under the Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations. "Today, the European Union and Canada have announced sanctions against some of the key military leaders who were involved in atrocities and human rights violations in Rakhine State, including sexual and gender-based violence," reads a statement from Freeland. "Canada and the international community cannot be silent. This is ethnic cleansing. These are crimes against humanity."
Within hours of the announcement of the sanctions, the Myanmar military announced that one of the sanctioned generals had been fired. The person in question is Major General Maung Maung Soe. "He is responsible for the atrocities and serious human rights violations committed against (the) Rohingya population in Rakhine State by the Western Command during that period," the EU said in a statement.
The Myanmar officials -- five army generals, a border guard commander and a police commander -- face travel bans and asset freezes for their role in the crisis.
Meanwhile, officials from Myanmar have maintained that there had been no wrongdoing by the government. They also deny charges of humanitarian abuse and ethnic cleansing.
Our assessment is that the Rohingya Muslims have been rendered stateless and are currently protected by neither law nor any specific government. It will be up to the international community to come together to save this group. Therefore sanctions from Canada and the European Union would try and check the region from any future atrocities.