Tillerson 'deeply concerned' about violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Rohingya Muslims en masse are fleeing increasing violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.PlayABCNews.com
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Secretary of state Rex Tillerson stated that he is “deeply concerned” about the continuing atrocities involving the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. His comments came during a press conference with Burmese De-Facto civilian head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Wednesday in Myanmar.

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The ethnic group has faced oppression in the predominantly Buddhist area for years. Since the August 25 attacks by Arakan Rohingyan Salvation Army on security forces and Muslim minorities, over 600,000 Rohingyan have fled to Bangladesh. An unknown number from multiple ethic groups remain internally displaced with limited access to food, water and shelter.

As a result, Tillerson announced an additional $47 Million in humanitarian assistance for refugees, bringing the American response to the Rakhine State crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh to more than $87 million since August of 2016.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council slammed called upon the government of Myanmar to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine State, to restore civil administration and apply rule of law, and to take immediate steps in accordance with their obligations and commitments to respect human rights.

In a report on its Facebook page, the Myanmar Military cleared itself of any role in the abuse of the Rohingya, reporting that the atrocities are at the hands of ARSA Bengali terrorists. Human rights organization Amnesty International has slammed the military’s report, labeling it an attempted “whitewash” of the injustices against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Tillerson calls upon Myanmar’s civilian government and military to conduct a “full, effective, and independent investigation” into the atrocities -- an investigation that Tillerson assures “The United States strongly supports.”

When asked if Tillerson and the State Department would follow the United States Congress recommendation to use the term "ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, Tillerson said "we're evaluating the criteria and the information available to us, and we'll make a determination on that probably after I return."

Secretary Tillerson said he believes that the Rohingya crisis is a test for Myanmar’s new government. “Myanmar's response to this crisis critical to determining the success of its transition to a more democratic society. The key test of any new democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable and marginalized populations.”

Last Week, Suu Kyi neglected to answer questions regarding the conflict while attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) summit in Manila, Philippines. During the press conference, the de facto civilian leader of Myanmar said that she watches her statements in an effort to avoid further instability in the region, "We mustn't forget that there are many different communities in the Rakhine, and if they are to live together in peace and harmony in the long term, we can't set them against each other. We cannot make the kind of statement that drive them further apart."