United States says it is ‘clear’ that Rohingya crisis is ethnic cleansing
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United States says it is ‘clear’ that Rohingya crisis is ethnic cleansing

THE United States has called operations by the Tatmadaw army of Burma (Myanmar) against Rohingya Muslims “ethnic cleansing” and suggested possible targeted sanctions because of the “horrendous atrocities” in Rakhine State.

In a press statement released by the White House on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that “after a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.”

Last Wednesday Tillerson visited the Burmese capital Naypyitaw where he met with the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the powerful military chief General Min Aung Hlaing.

SEE ALSO: As Tillerson visits Burma, Holocaust Museum points to ‘mounting evidence of genocide’

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Rohingya refugees line up to receive food supplies at Hakim Para refugee settlement near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 21, 2017. Source: Reuters/Susana Vera

The US has committed an additional US$47 million in humanitarian aid for those affected by the Rakhine State crisis. “Our first priority is to relieve the intolerable suffering faced by so many,” said Tillerson.

As of this week the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported 622,000 people had arrived in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh since Aug 25, in what some have identified as the fastest exodus since the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s.

This brings the total number of Rohingya living in squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh to more than 834,000 – around 60 percent of whom are children.

Eyewitness testimony, aerial photography of Rohingya villages and other evidence has suggested that refugees were escaping mass killings, rape and arson of their homes.

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Mohamed Faisal, 13, a newly arrived Rohingya refugee who had crossed the Bangladesh-Myanmar border a few hours before, waits to get bused to a registration point at an army centre in the Teknaf area, Bangladesh, November 21, 2017. Faisal lost his father and part of his arm when a rocket launcher hit his home at the end of August, a relative of his says. Source: Reuters/Susana Vera

SEE ALSO: ‘He stuck a knife into my side’: Burmese army accused of gang-raping women and girls

Tillerson said on Wednesday that those responsible for “horrendous atrocities” in the Rakhine must be held accountable, reiterating calls for an independent investigation to “further determine the facts on the ground”.

“The United States will also pursue accountability through US law, including possible targeted sanctions,” said Tillerson.

Dozens of US lawmakers have called upon President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions and travel bans against Burma’s military leadership, however Tillerson said last week that these measures were not “advisable at this time”.