- Maung Maung Soe is among the 52 people and entities worldwide targeted by the US for human rights violations and corruption.
The U.S. on Thursday imposed sanctions on a top general in Myanmar for his role in atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.
Maung Maung Soe is accused of leading a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Rohingya in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.
“In his former role as chief of the [Myanmar] Army’s Western command, Maung Maung Soe oversaw the military operation in Rakhine State responsible for widespread human rights abuse against Rohingya civilians in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
"Secretary of State [Rex Tillerson] determined on November 22 that the situation in northern Rakhine state in [Myanmar] constituted ethnic cleansing,” the Treasury Department said in a statement on its website.
"The United States government examined credible evidence of Maung Maung Soe’s activities, including allegations against [Myanmar’s] security forces of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and arbitrary arrest as well as the widespread burning of villages."
The U.S. sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which authorizes the U.S. government to sanction foreign individuals for human rights violations and corruption.
The action freezes any assets the sanctioned individuals and entities may hold under U.S. jurisdiction, blocks Americans from dealing with them and essentially cuts them off from the global financial system.
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.
Some 650,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Bangladesh 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 Dec. 12, 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 five.
General Maung Soe was among the 52 individuals and entities worldwide targeted for sanctions by the department for human rights abuses and corruption.
They include Gambia's former President Yahya Jammed; Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of former Uzbekistan leader Islam Karimov, Israeli billionaire businessman Dan Gertler and Pakistani surgeon Mukhtar Hamid Shah.
"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, referring to the sanctions.
"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 added.
Tillerson said the sanctions would help ensure the security of the U.S. and its allies and shows America's commitment to protecting human rights and fighting corruption.