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

The Gulf Today - - Americas -

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.

Rex Tiller­son

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