Trump administration calls violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar 'ethnic cleansing'

26 November, 2017, 00:57 | Author: Dustin Murphy
  • Myanmar Bangladesh sign deal to repatriate Rohingya

But as bad as conditions are for the Rohingya generally, the population's women and girls face the additional terror of widespread sexual assault - with the United Nations recently concluding that almost every one of the hundreds of thousands of females fleeing Myanmar, mostly to neighboring Bangladesh, has survived or witnessed some form of sexual assault, including rape and gang rape.

"The situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya", U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

The foreign minister said he would give details of the arrangement at a press briefing in Dhaka tomorrow.

Since October 2016, the conflict between Myanmar's Buddhist majority and the predominantly Muslim Rohingya has escalated considerably.

According to the sources, Myanmar has agreed to focus only on the Rohingya population sheltered in Bangladesh since October 2016.

Washington has sought to balance its wish to nurture the civilian government in Myanmar, where it competes for influence with China, with its desire to hold the military accountable for the abuses.

Earlier, Tillerson took a more hesitant approach towards his description of the events in the Southeast Asian country, where an estimated 615,000 people have been forced out of their homes, fleeing for shelter into neighboring Bangladesh.

"The Rohingya have suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades, and the global community must not fail them now when their very existence in Myanmar is threatened" said Cameron Hudson, Director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In its report submitted to the Myanmar president on August 23, the commission noted that scrapping restrictions on movement in Rakhine and granting citizenship to its Muslim minority people could help avoid fuelling extremism and bring peace to the state.

The Trump administration, which has infrequently emphasized human rights issues in other countries, had been reluctant to crack down on Myanmar because of its potential usefulness in challenging China and North Korea.

UNFPA officials say the United States aid cut is trickling down to affect Rohingya women and girls because the agency is a lead provider of services to displaced populations.

Tourists once flocked to Cox's Bazar to relax on what some consider the world's longest beach.

The agency has so far deployed 42 midwives who have delivered more than 400 babies, says Mr. Coquelin. The Myanmar authorities have in recent weeks balked at the possibility of the Rohingya, whom they consider to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, returning to their native villages. "But right now it's taking a lot of time to get access to these services".

The scale of the repatriation ahead, and the difficulty that many Rohingya refugees will face in meeting criteria for return that will require them to prove their claim to residency in Rakhine State, mean the process will likely be lengthy. "This is the most rapid scale we've seen since perhaps Kosovo" in 1998, he says.

Others said they would only return if certain demands were met.

"We're trying to make sure whatever trauma that they've encountered that they have something to settle into that's dignified, that that makes them feel welcome and makes them feel that they are being looked after", Thakral says.

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