By Barry Ellsworth
Canada imposed targeted sanctions Friday on a Myanmar general who is reported to have played a “significant role” in violence against Rohingya Muslims.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled persecution by the Myanmar army and Major-General Maung Maung Soe is one of the key leaders of the persecution, said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“Canada will not stand silently as crimes against humanity are committed against the Rohingya,” she said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities as they struggle to see their rights respected.”
Canada’s action comes the same day as a delegation of the European Parliament pushed for an international independent probe of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in the predominately Buddhist country of Myanmar.
The nine-member Human Rights EU subcommittee said the persecution of the Rohingya poses a serious barrier to moving Myanmar toward a democracy from a military dictatorship.
“We have learnt that there are still many forms of human rights violations in Myanmar,” said subcommittee chair Pier Antonio Panzeri at a news conference.
Canada took direct action against Maung Maung Soe because of those violations.
“These sanctions are a result of the significant role played by this key military official in human rights violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar and in the violence and persecution that has forced more than 688,000 Rohingya to flee their country,” read a statement on the Government of Canada’s website.
Many refugees are in crowded camps in neighboring Bangladesh that despite herculean efforts by countries like Turkey do not always provide the necessities of life such as clean drinking water.
Freeland said Myanmar’s military leaders have an “obligation to respect the human rights of all people and those responsible for these atrocities must be held to account”.
Targeted sanctions involve a variety of punitive measures such as prohibition of financial transactions between Canada and the targeted state or individual and the seizure or freezing of properties in Canada.
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.
More than 650,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, 2017 when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the UN.
At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published on Dec. 12, 2017, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.