US secretary of state prepares to press Myanmar on Rohingya crisis

By: Johanna Chisholm - Posted on: November 15, 2017 | Current Affairs

Tillerson will be meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar today to stress the importance of ending the country’s violence against the Rohingyas

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson participates in the East Asia meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Manila on November 14, 2017 Photo: Ted Aljibe/EPA

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is preparing to do what US President Trump failed to do during his visit with Southeast Asian leaders last week in Manila; namely, put the pressure on Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi over her country’s continued hostilities toward Rohingya Muslims.

Tillerson is wrapping up the last leg of his two-week trip to the region, much of which was spent alongside President Trump, in Myanmar’s capital city of Naypyitaw. While there, the secretary of state plans to push for a democratic resolution and call for a stop to the ongoing displacement that has forced some 600,000 refugees from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.

He will sit down with the Nobel Peace Prize winner and her military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, to face the issue head on and could possibly even begin broaching the topic of sanctions against the nation should the Myanmar leader prove not to be receptive, Bloomberg reported.

A representative from the secretary of state, Patrick Murphy, was the first to raise the topic of sanctions, stating last month that there was “no question” in the state department’s mind that atrocities had been committed.

Suu Kyi has come under an increasing pressure from the international community in recent weeks. And Tillerson’s visit will be coming on the heels of the United Nations Security Council’s most outward appeal to Myanmar to halt their excessive military force and to ensure a commitment to upholding international standards of human rights.

Tillerson’s visit also comes after a report was released by the Myanmar military on their Facebook page that accepted no blame for the brutalities suffered by the Rohingyas, saying instead that they had only “abided by laws” to handle the “security operations”.

This internal investigation that has denied the months-long killings of Rohingya Muslims has been called ‘absurd’ and even prompted human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, to accuse the army of ‘whitewashing’ the abuse.

Survivors who made it into the refugee camps in Bangladesh, which has been described by Reuters as being the world’s worst refugee crisis, detailed countless instances of indiscriminate killings, torture and rape of civilians.

A spokesperson for the UN said on Tuesday following the report’s release that they have also found ample evidence to support the refugees’ claims.

“What we found took place in Rakhine state… is a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, murder, rape, assault, killings, torture. We heard [this] from people… over and over again.”

The de-facto civilian leader of Myanmar and Tillerson met on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Manila, but when asked by reporters about the conflict, Suu Kyi did not provide any answers.

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