Myanmar’s military accountable for Rohingya crisis: Rex Tillerson US secretary of state

Tillerson said Washington saw Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, as “an important emerging democracy,” but the Rohingya crisis was a test for the power-sharing government.

The United States holds Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its harsh crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, the US secretary of state said.

Rex Tillerson, however, stopped short of saying on Wednesday whether the US would take any action against Myanmar’s military leaders over an offensive that has driven more than 500,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh, with some estimating that as many as 15,000 continue to make the dangerous journey each day.

The Myanmar government has engaged in at least four of the five genocidal acts outlined in the Genocide Convention against the Rohingya, writes Starr Kinseth, an international human rights and humanitarian lawyer.

“The world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area,” Tillerson told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Forty-three US lawmakers urged the Trump administration to re-impose US travel bans on Myanmar’s military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown.

The request, in a letter to Tillerson from members of the House of Representatives, said Myanmar authorities “appear to be in denial of what has happened”, and called for Washington to take “meaningful steps” against those who have committed human rights abuses.

Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar in large numbers since late August when Rohingya rebel attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape.

Tillerson said Washington understood Myanmar had a militancy problem, but the military had to be disciplined and restrained in the way it dealt with this and to allow access to the region “so that we can get a full accounting of the circumstances”.

“Someone, if these reports are true, is going to be held to account for that,” Tillerson said. “And it’s up to the military leadership of Burma to decide what direction they want to play in the future of Burma.”

On the night of August 25, an attack on Myanmar security forces by a handful of Rohingya militants in Northern Rakhine State prompted a brutal government counteroffensive that has, in turn, led to the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century.

In fact, in terms of rate of escalation, this is the greatest mass exodus – and has the makings to become the most significant humanitarian catastrophe – since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when over 800,000 Hutus and moderate Tutsis were slaughtered over a mere 100-day period.

Tillerson said Washington saw Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, as “an important emerging democracy,” but the Rohingya crisis was a test for the power-sharing government.

According to Ashley Starr Kinseth, an international human rights and humanitarian lawyer, “To much of the international community, Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis appears sudden, with few to no warning signs; indeed, it is only in recent weeks that the word “Rohingya” has begun to crop up in international headlines and to seep into the world’s collective consciousness and conscience. Yet as a human rights lawyer who has long followed the Rohingya situation – and was present in Northern Rakhine the morning the violence erupted – I can say there is no question that the crisis unfolding now has been in the making for years, if not decades. Perhaps more importantly, by international legal and historical standards, the crisis bears all the characteristics of a genocide in bloom.”

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