Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar: Refugees International Calls for Presidential Envoy and Sanctions on Myanmar’s Military

Washington, D.C. (October 5, 2017) – The Myanmar military has executed a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people of Rakhine State, a new Refugees International policy brief concludes. The brief, “Bearing Witness to Crimes Against Humanity,” provides testimony from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, detailing abuses by Myanmar’s military forces that constitute crimes against humanity.  

During a fact-finding mission to the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in late September, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz and Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan met with Rohingya refugees who recently fled the targeted attacks in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The Rohingya men, women, and children shared consistent accounts of Myanmar soldiers surrounding villages, burning homes to the ground, stabbing and shooting the fleeing villagers, and committing mass rapes. 

“The Rohingya have faced decades of persecution and targeted violence in Myanmar, but the recent attacks that began just over a month ago are of an entirely new scale and level of inhumanity,” Schwartz said. “After 30 years working in the human rights field, there is no doubt in my mind that the actions of the Myanmar military constitute crimes against humanity.”

To date, more than 500,000 Rohingya men, women, and children have fled Myanmar, creating a humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh, where that nation’s existing capabilities to handle the crisis have been overwhelmed. To its credit, the Government of Bangladesh has generally welcomed the Rohingya refugees, but Bangladesh and the Rohingya refugees need much more international assistance to address the still growing humanitarian crisis. 

“The root causes of the crisis must be addressed and that can only be done by bringing pressure on the Myanmar government to end its policies of persecution and on the Myanmar military to end its egregious human rights abuses,” Sullivan said.

Further, Refugees International calls on the United Nations, United States, and international community to demand a cessation of abuses against Rohingya civilians and to apply pressure on the Government of Myanmar to grant a United Nations fact-finding mission access to Rakhine State to investigate human rights abuses against the Rohingya. In addition, humanitarian organizations must also be granted unfettered access to Rohingya communities in Rakhine State. 

Measures by the U.S. Government and the international community should include:

  • Targeted sanctions on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior military officials and military-owned enterprises.

  • A multi-lateral arms embargo on Myanmar.

  • Appointment of a high-level U.S. Presidential envoy on Myanmar.

Read the full policy brief here.

For interviews with Eric Schwartz or Daniel Sullivan, lease contact Gail Chalef, senior communications officer, at (202) 540-7026 or (202) 290-8608.