EU sanctions senior Myanmar military over Rohingya abuses

LUXEMBOURG: The EU on Monday hit seven top Myanmar security officials with sanctions over the Rohingya crisis, accusing them of serious human rights violations including killings and sexual violence.

Some 700,000 members of the beleaguered Muslim minority have fled a military crackdown in the country's northern Rakhine state since August last year, a process the UN and major western powers have said amounts to "ethnic cleansing".

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg hit five army generals, a border guard commander and a police commander with travel bans and asset freezes for their role in the crisis.

"The individuals subject to sanctions are Myanmar/Burma army (Tatmadaw), border guard and police officials, listed 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," the EU said in a statement.

"These violations include unlawful killings, sexual violence and the systematic burning of Rohingya houses and buildings."

After a period of thawing relations with Myanmar after the country's military junta ceded power in 2011, the Rohingya crisis has seen the EU take a harder line and blacklisting the officials is the toughest step taken so far by Brussels.

Britain, Myanmar's former colonial ruler which has taken the lead in preparing EU sanctions, said Monday's listing would send a signal to military top brass that the world was watching and those responsible for abuses would be held to account.

"These sanctions are a direct response to the appalling violence, including sexual violence, that took place in Rakhine last year. The individuals listed were responsible for units that have been identified as the perpetrators of this violence," junior foreign minister Mark Field said in a statement. — AFP