By Sorwar Alam
ANKARA (AA) - Rohingya rights groups on Friday urged the U.S. to impose tougher sanctions on top military officials of Myanmar for crimes against Rohingya Muslims, calling the existing sanctions toothless.
"The U.S. sanctions -- travel restrictions on two Myanmar senior generals and two minions that don't travel to the U.S. -- is an act adding insult to the genocidal injury of the Rohingya people," said Maung Zarni, a Burmese coordinator of Free Rohingya Coalition, an advocacy group working for the rights of the persecuted people.
The U.S. announced Tuesday that for their roles in the ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, it is banning four top Myanmar military officials and their immediate families from traveling to the United States.
If the U.S. is serious about accountability it should impose "crippling financial, political, diplomatic and economic sanctions, invoke the Genocide Convention, and file a legal challenge at the International Court of Justice," said Zarni, who is also a fellow of the Genocide Documentation Center of Cambodia.
The U.S.’ Myanmar policy is based on "the farce that there is a 'fragile democratic transition' led by Washington's former 'democracy queen' Suu Kyi while her National League for Democracy (NLD) party-military coalition government is committing the gravest crimes, including genocide and war crimes against Rohingya and other national minorities," he stressed.
Another Rohingya rights group welcomed the sanctions, but also urged the U.S. to take further actions.
The London-based Burma Human Rights Network -- using an earlier name for Myanmar -- said in a statement Thursday that the group "welcomes the public designation of four senior military figures by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, but calls on the United States to follow with targeted sanctions against military-owned companies and businesses."
The U.S. action "is a major step in acknowledging and punishing their cruel and inhumane actions against the Rohingya and other minorities inside of Burma," said Kyaw Win, the group’s executive director.
"But we also ask them to go further, as the military will not be thwarted from committing further crimes by symbolic actions alone."
They also called on the U.S. and other nations to impose "targeted sanctions against [Myanmar's] military-owned companies and businesses"
The group underlined that the targeted sanctions must include top generals' business interests and partners operating both inside Myanmar and abroad in order to ensure their effectiveness.
"It is time that the world recognizes the awful crimes committed by these men and that they are held accountable,” Win added.
- A persecuted people
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.