Tillerson finally declares situation in Myanmar ethnic cleansing

Rex Tillerson

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar's Rakhine state since August 25, after insurgents attacked security forces and prompted a brutal military crackdown that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing.

Following talks between Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, held after weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation, the two sides inked a deal in Myanmar's capital, Naypyidaw, on Thursday.

Hasina was addressing a parade marking the handover of National Standard (national flag) to the Corps of Military Police Centre at Savar Cantonment near Dhaka.

"After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state [of Myanmar] constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya", Tillerson said.

Referring to the registration forms the Rohingyas must complete with personal details before repatriation, Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary at Myanmar's ministry of labour, immigration and population, said, "We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us".

Some 620 thousand Rohingya Muslims fled the violence launched in the wake of Rohingya militant attacks.

Bangladesh has been taking the maximum care of those people displaced by the internal strife in Myanmar on humanitarian ground. Most have gone to Bangladesh.

"In the case of the Rohingya, this is so severe that it amounts to a widespread and systemic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic (or racial) identity, and therefore legally constitutes apartheid, a crime against humanity under global law", Amnesty said.

Aung San Suu Kyi said the neighboring countries are working on a memorandum of understanding for the "safe and voluntary return" for those who fled.

Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh were wary of the accord.

The United States has called the Myanmar military operation against the Rohingya population "ethnic cleansing" and threatened targeted sanctions against those responsible for what it called "horrendous atrocities".

On Thursday morning, the U.S. embassy in Myanmar said it had temporarily suspended travel for American officials to parts of Rakhine state, citing concerns over potential protests after Tillerson's comments.

Under that agreement, Rohingya were required to present residency documents, which few have, before being allowed to return to Myanmar.

"On the contrary, it can aggravate the situation, throw more fuel", he said, citing concern over how the Buddhist community in Rakhine would react to such a designation.

Mr Ali is making an official visit to Myanmar after attending the 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers' meeting, at the invitation of the Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor.

"No provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued".

On Wednesday, the U.S. toughened its stance on Myanmar, accusing the country's security forces of perpetrating "horrendous atrocities" against the Rohingyas that amount to "ethnic cleansing" of the Muslim minority. United States officials also worry that the mistreatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority may fuel radicalism.

In its statement, Myanmar State Counsellor's Office said, "Western countries as well the OIC had portrayed the matter as an worldwide issue by passing resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly".

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