Refugees International welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s acknowledgement that ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people is taking place in Myanmar.
“The determination of ethnic cleansing is significant because it compels the United States to take further requisite actions, like targeted sanctions,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International. “Secretary Tillerson’s statement conveys a new sense of urgency that can be used by the United States to encourage and pressure other nations to take stronger measures, including multilateral sanctions such as ceasing of military to military relations and a global arms embargo.”
“Secretary Tillerson’s statement is a necessary first step. However, until the abuses against the Rohingya people end and full access is given to the international humanitarian aid and the UN fact-finding mission, such pressure and requisite actions will continue to be essential,” Schwartz concluded.
Refugees International urges the U.S. government to now impose sanctions on key figures in Myanmar’s military leadership, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The Trump Administration should further use the new sense of urgency reflected in its determination of ethnic cleansing to encourage and pressure other nations to take stronger measures toward Myanmar’s government and military, including multilateral sanctions, ceasing of military to military relations, and imposing a global arms embargo. The United States must continue to demand full access for the UN fact-finding mission and international humanitarian aid.
Finally, U.S. engagement and pressure should not end with this statement. Secretary Tillerson should further announce the appointment of a U.S. special representative, with the rank of ambassador, to establish a stronger U.S. government policy toward Myanmar and the Rohingya crisis as well as coordinate mulitilateral actions that go along with this newly recognized level of cruelty.
Refugees International first recognized the campaign of abuse against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing on September 5, 2017, when RI President Eric Schwartz stated: “Make no mistake: ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are taking place in the full view of the United Nations and governments of the world.” Hundreds of thousands of additional Rohingya have been forced to flee Myanmar since that time. The State Department’s recognition of ethnic cleansing is welcome but already late. Requisite actions cannot wait any longer.