Rohingya Crisis: Australia out of step as U.S. State Department acknowledges ethnic cleansing in Myanmar

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the sustained and systemic attacks on the Rohingya population by the Myanmar military “ethnic cleansing” overnight in an acknowledgment of the nature of the humanitarian crisis. He also called for an independent probe into north Rakhine State. The announcement comes a week after promising an additional US$47 million in humanitarian aid. This further highlights how out of step Australia is in responding to the Rohingya crisis.

“Amnesty International’s message on this is really clear – governments around the world who continue to train or sell arms to Myanmar’s military are propping up a force that is carrying out a vicious campaign of violence against the Rohingya that amounts to crimes against humanity,” said Amnesty International Australia’s Crisis Campaigns Coordinator Diana Sayed.

“As our own researchers have documented on the ground, the Myanmar military has been brutally murdering, raping, and burning the Rohingya for months. Secretary Tillerson’s acknowledgement of ethnic cleansing and call for an investigation sets an example for how the world can respond to this crisis. The time for outrage and condemnation has passed. The international 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 International USA.

Over 620,000 Rohingya – comparable to the population of Washington DC – have poured into neighboring Bangladesh in the span of two months. Tillerson had previously stated that he holds the leadership of the Myanmar military responsible for attacks carried out against the Rohingya people and their villages and that “the world can’t stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area.”

Amnesty International documented the devastation caused by the military in a recent report, and has confirmed that the military has placed landmines near the border with Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees have fled to seek safety. This week the organisation issued a report declaring the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar as apartheid.