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.
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.
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”.