Targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s Generals first test for Pyne and Payne

28 Aug, 2018

Australia must impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s Generals who the UN has stated should be “investigated and prosecuted for genocide” in relation to killings and violence in Rakhine State, ACFID’s CEO, Marc Purcell said today.

As recently as April, Australian diplomats and defence staff have met with Generals – including those named in the UN’s report – to discussprogress on building the Standard Army of Myanmar”.

In its report, the UN Fact-Finding mission found that crimes against humanity including murder, imprisonment, rape and sexual slavery had been committed by the Tatmadaw and that the crimes in Rakhine state were similar to those that “have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts.”

Commenting ACFID’s CEO, Marc Purcell said:

“Australia cannot continue to give license to these actions by failing to act. It signals, to the region and the world, that we are prepared to tolerate gross human rights violations. Targeted travel and financial sanctions on the Generals named in the report must now be Australia’s next move.”

The UK has suspended all defence cooperation with Myanmar and the U.S. has applied sanctions to senior members of the Myanmar military.

Ahead of the US State Department’s own report on the events in Rakhine State, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said that the US will hold the Myanmar military accountable for their “abhorrent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Rohingya.”

“Australia’s closest allies are taking action, ceasing defence cooperation and imposing sanctions. The Australian Government has stated that it has retained its engagement with the Tatmadaw ‘to promote positive change within the military’, but this has evidently failed.

“Unless it ceases its cooperation in the wake of this report, Australia will be granting impunity to Myanmar’s Generals”, Marc Purcell said.

Speaking to the ABC this morning, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission panel, and former Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Christopher Sidoti said: “Myanmar will not be able to transition to a democracy; it will not know peace and justice and freedom, unless and until the military is held to account.”

ACFID supports Mr Sidoti’s calls for accountability and has called for Australia’s intervention at the next meeting of the Human Rights Council which begins on 10 September.

Marc Purcell said:

“As a member of the UN Human Rights Council we have a responsibility to send a strong signal that we have a zero tolerance for impunity regarding egregious human rights violations in our region.

“We backed the creation of the UN fact-finding mission to Myanmar and now we must back its conclusions. We need a strong statement from Australia at the forthcoming Human Rights Council meeting that they will follow through.

“Australia should support the calls by the fact-finding mission for an independent, impartial mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations.”

Previous warnings by the UN Secretary-General and Amnesty International, have reported crimes against humanity, including the Tatmadaw’s widespread threat and use of sexual violence to terrorise the Rohingya community.

Speaking at the press conference on the launch of the UN report, member of the mission’s panel, Radhika Coomaraswamy, confirmed that the Tatmadaw used sexual violence against the Rohingya as a tactic of war. She stated that “the scale, brutality and systematic nature of rape and violence indicate they are part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorise or punish the civilian population.”  

Coomaraswamy said that the ‘normalisation’ of the Tatmadaw’s use of sexual violence and violence against women and children was “only possible in a climate of long-standing impunity”.  

Marc Purcell concluded:

“As a champion of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda, Australia must stand in solidarity with Rohingya women, men and children and call for an end to impunity for sexual violence committed by Myanmar’s military.

“If we do not call out the sexual and gender-based violence which the Myanmar military has used as a form of warfare, it undermines the Australian Government’s commitments under our National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

“The Australian Government must provide strong, principled, diplomatic leadership to help establish durable solutions and lasting peace in the region.”


For further information, and interview requests, please contact Tim Watkin on 0401 721 064 or at [email protected].