US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on Mynmar’s army chief to help end the deadly violence against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state that has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to flee the country.
Tillerson telephoned Min Aung Hlaing on Thursday and expressed “concern about the continuing humanitarian crisis and reported atrocities in Rakhine,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“The Secretary urged Burma’s security forces to support the government in ending the violence in Rakhine state and allowing the safe return home of those displaced during this crisis, especially the large numbers of ethnic Rohingya,” she added.
Myanmar’s security forces and armed Buddhist extremists have been carrying out atrocities against the Rohingya in the Muslim-majority Rakhine region in Myanmar for several months.
According to multiple reports, entire villages of Rohingya Muslims have been burnt to the ground. A large number of Muslims, including women and children, have been burnt alive, lynched to death or lost their lives while fleeing the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.
US officials have expressed concerns about the violence against Rohingyas but refused to address calls for international sanctions against the country.
“We don’t want to get ahead of the conversations that we’re having,” Nauert told reporters in Washington, DC, last month.
But now the US State Department says it is considering sanctions against parties responsible for the atrocities against the Rohingya.
“We express our gravest concern with recent events in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured,” the State Department said on Monday. “It is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.”
“We are exploring accountability mechanisms available under US law, including Global Magnitsky targeted sanctions,” it added, referring to a US law that allows penalties against perpetrators of human rights violations.
Rakhine State, where Rohingya Muslims have lived for generations, has been under military siege since late last year. Access is denied to journalists and rights activists, but the Muslims who have managed to flee to Bangladesh have told of horrendous violence being carried out there. Soldiers have been killing and raping the Muslims and have even been shooting at fleeing civilians, including women and children, at random, according to witnesses.
The brutal atrocities have been deemed “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations and have sent more than one million Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh, creating a humanitarian emergency there.