U.S. levies sanctions against Burma general, dozen others

U.S. levies sanctions against Burma general, dozen others

The Associated Press

The United States in late December 2017 stepped back from a half-decade effort to forge closer relations with Burma, condemning a top general to a blacklist of shame for his role in atrocities against Rohingya Muslims. The new sanctions were the most serious U.S. response so far to what it calls “ethnic cleansing” in the western part of the Southeast Asian nation. (Pictured: A Rohingya Muslim child pulls a cart made from a plastic container as children play at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh, in December 2017.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration announced penalties against 13 people worldwide in all. They included The Gambia’s former president, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s late dictator and the son of Russia’s prosecutor general. The sanctions were the first set imposed under a 2016 law, named after a Russian lawyer who died in prison, that empowers the U.S. Treasury Department to target officials anywhere for human rights violations and corruption.

The inclusion of Burma’s Maung Soe on the list was perhaps the most dramatic move in terms of U.S. foreign policy. Washington progressively eased economic and political sanctions against Burma starting in 2012 to reward the country for its shift toward democracy after decades of military rule. Ties expanded further as Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi rose to power.

The relationship has soured since Burma’s crackdown in Rakhine state, which has forced 650,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and, according to aid group Doctors Without Borders, left thousands of people dead. Maung Soe was until November 2017 the military commander in Rakhine, and the U.S. said he was responsible for “widespread human rights abuse,” citing credible evidence of mass killings, rapes and villages being burned.

Other prominent individuals punished in late December 2017 include:

—Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia’s former president. He is alleged to have created an armed squad known as “the Junglers” that terrorized and killed numerous political foes, including religious leaders, journalists and dissidents, while he was in power from 1994 to 2017. Jammeh is also accused of plundering his country’s treasury by stealing at least U.S. $50 million in state funds.

—Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the late Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov. She is said to have headed an organized crime syndicate that used government agencies to expropriate businesses, monopolize markets, solicit bribes and run extortion rackets.

—Artem Chaika, son of Russia’s Prosecutor General Yury Chaika. The younger Chaika is accused of using his family connections to unfairly buy state-owned assets and win contracts, as well as harass and interfere with competitors.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s action freezes any assets these people have under U.S. jurisdiction. Americans are banned from doing business with the individuals. It’s unclear whether these people have extensive financial holdings or relationships in the United States. The blacklist is designed to cause reputational damage that would get banks in Europe, Asia and elsewhere also to cut ties.

“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,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. He said the penalties send a “message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds.”