Published: Wed, November 22, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Tillerson declares Myanmar violence as 'ethnic cleansing'

Tillerson declares Myanmar violence as 'ethnic cleansing'

USA lawmakers and rights groups have been urging the Trump administration to call the violence ethnic cleansing.

Tillerson said the USA would work through the United Nations and also "pursue accountability through U.S. law, including possible targeted sanctions".

Merkley told reporters that the U.S. Congressional delegation has urged Myanmar's government to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission, and to allow the United Nations and other NGOs access to the troubled region to provide humanitarian assistance.

The decision to adopt the term "ethnic cleansing" as official USA policy followed a recommendation made by senior State Department officials.

A new report by the London-based rights group, based on two years of research in Rakhine, has laid bare years of deteriorating conditions and escalating restrictions on the state's Rohingya population, leading up to the attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants that sent most of the area's Muslim population across the border to Bangladesh.

"My bosses have said it appears to be ethnic cleansing".

Pressure from Congress to take punitive steps against Myanmar has been mounting.

The military responded with what it calls "clearance operations".

Myanmar has moved toward civilian government in recent years after decades of military rule, though the military retains significant power. "The worldwide community must impose a comprehensive arms embargo and targeted financial sanctions against senior Myanmar military officials responsible for crimes against humanity", said Joanne Lin, national director of advocacy and government relations for Amnesty global USA.

The State Department has also examined whether the violence in Rakhine meets the definitions for crimes against humanity or genocide, but have so far made no such determinations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on November 13 the actions of the military in Rakhine State "looks like ethnic cleansing", adding it was a "major humanitarian crisis".

Human rights groups accuse the military of a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohinyga, who numbered roughly 1 million in Myanmar before the latest exodus.

Already, the United States has curtailed its ties to Myanmar's military over the violence.

The Buddhist majority in Myanmar believes they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, but many Rohingya families have lived for generations in Myanmar.

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