WASHINGTON – The United States said on Wednesday that violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is an "ethnic cleansing", threatening sanctions for military officers involved in a brutal crackdown that has sent more than 620,000 refugees to the border of Bangladesh.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Myanmar's security forces and "local vigilantes" for what he called the "intolerable suffering" of the Rohingya. Although the military accused the Rohingya insurgents of unleashing the crisis, Tillerson said that "no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have occurred."
"After a careful and exhaustive badysis of the facts available, it is clear that the situation in the north of the Rakhine state constitutes an ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya," Tillerson said in a statement.
Although the designation does not entail legal obligations for the United States to act, Tillerson said that those who perpetrated the atrocities "must be held accountable." He added that the United States wanted a full investigation and was considering "selective sanctions" against those responsible, but not broader sanctions against the nation.
Rohingya of the Rakhine state of Myanmar have been fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh seeking refuge from what the Myanmar army called "demining operations". "The crisis began in August, when Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar's security forces, leading to a brutal crackdown in which soldiers and Buddhist crowds killed men, raped women and girls and burned houses and property to compel Rohingya to leave.
The declaration followed a lengthy process of revision by the government of President Donald Trump to determine whether the violence met the threshold to be considered ethnic cleansing.The United Nations reached that conclusion in September, but EE The US had deferred, with Tillerson saying he needed more information, even as he expressed deep concern over the crisis.
Last week, Tillerson traveled to Myanmar on the highest-level visit to a US official since Trump took office. US officials suspended the possibility of an "ethnic cleansing" designation before Til's trip lerson, which could give him more influence when he met with officials in Myanmar. In the capital of Naypitaw, Tillerson met with the country's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Myanmar's powerful military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, who is in charge of operations in Rakhine State, home of the Rohingya population of Myanmar.
The leader of a group working to improve conditions for the Rohingya said on Thursday that he hopes the statement will strengthen the call for accountability. The director of the Arakan Project, Chris Lewa, said he thought Tillerson's visit had been relatively appreciated and hoped it would be constructive.
I hope it has the impact that (Tillerson) used the correct word to describe what is really happening. "Lewa said," and I expect the military to hear more, but it is always difficult to predict how the military will react and, at times, it seems that they are not hearing anything at all. "
State Department officials said the determination had the intention to increase pressure on the military and others in Myanmar to resolve the conflict and repatriate the refugees who fled to Bangladesh, but it is also likely to intensify calls for the Trump administration and Congress to move towards new sanctions. Earlier this month, a House committee pbaded a non-binding resolution condemning "murderous and murderous ethnic atrocities" and calling on Trump to impose sanctions on those responsible for abuses.
However, extensive sanctions against the economy of Myanmar or its army The authorities said that the Trump administration had determined that they would not be productive, either p to ensure accountability or to promote broader US goals in Myanmar. Instead, the United States is considering sanctions against individuals only, officials said, who were not authorized to comment by name and reported to journalists in a conference call on condition of anonymity.
US wide-based sanctions against Myanmar declined under former President Barack Obama as the Southeast Asian nation moved toward democracy. US officials UU They have been concerned that rejecting sanctions or putting too much pressure on Myanmar's leaders about the Rohingya violence could undermine the country's civilian government, led for the past 18 months by Suu Kyi. That could delay or reverse the country's delicate transition from decades of harsh military rule and risks of driving Myanmar away from the United States. UU And closer to China.
The State Department has also examined whether the violence in Rakhine complies with the definitions of crimes against humanity or genocide, but so far they have not made such determinations. Both designations carry significant legal consequences.
According to the United Nations Office for the Prevention of Genocide, ethnic cleansing, on the other hand, is not recognized as an independent crime under international law. The term ethnic cleansing emerged in the context of the 1990 conflict in the former Yugoslavia, when a UN commission defined it as "converting an ethnically homogeneous area through the use of force or intimidation to eliminate people from certain groups of people. area".
Human rights groups accuse the military of a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohinyga, which totaled approximately 1 million in Myanmar before the last exodus. The Buddhist majority in Myanmar believe that they emigrated illegally from Bangladesh, but many Rohingya families have lived for generations in Myanmar. In 1982, they were stripped of their citizenship.
The United States has already reduced its links with the Myanmar army through violence. Earlier this year, the United States restored restrictions on the granting of visas to members of the Myanmar military, and the State Department considered that the units and officers involved in operations in Rakhine State are not eligible to receive badistance from the United States.
to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that a committee of the House of Representatives, not the House of Representatives, pbaded a non-binding resolution this month condemning ethnic cleansing.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.