Tillerson to press Myanmar army chief to halt violence
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by an army operation in Rakhine
YANGON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will stress the need to halt violence and stabilise Rakhine State when he meets the head of Myanmar’s military on Wednesday in a bid to ease the Rohingya refugee crisis, a senior State Department oficial said.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have led to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a counter-insurgency clearance operation of Myanmar forces in Rakhine. A top UN oficial has called the operation a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing.” Attending an East Asia summit in Manila on Tuesday, Tillerson met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose less than two-year-old civilian administration shares power with the military and has no control over its generals.
He will meet Suu Kyi again in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw on Wednesday, and hold separate talks with the head of the armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Asked what approach Tillerson would take with Myanmar’s army chief, the State Department oficial told journalists in a brieing by teleconference that the emphasis would be on restoring peace in Rakhine.
“We are focusing on trying to stabilise areas in northern Rakhine so that people can return there, stopping the violence, making sure that the military would protect all populations in that area equally and that they conduct a credible investigation that leads to accountability for people who have perpetrated abuses,” said the oficial, who was with Tillerson in Manila and declined to be identiied.
The oficial said the consequences for the country, also known as Burma, if it failed to respond to the crisis with accountability could be part of the conversation with the military leader.
“Burma made a lot of progress and we would not want to see that progress reversed,” the oficial added.
US senators in Washington are pressing for economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the Myanmar military and its business interests.
“The secretary will reiterate support for Burma’s democratic transition and urge the Burmese government to protect the local population and allow unhindered humanitarian and media access, (and) support for a credible investigation of abuses,” the oficial added.