US increasing aid for Rohingya crisis by $32 million

PHOTO: Rohingya Muslims stretch out their arms to reach food being distributed near Balukhali refugee camp in Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh, Sept. 20, 2017.PlayBernat Armangue/AP
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The United States is increasing its aid to the United Nations and other international groups that are working with Myanmar's Rohingya minority, who are being killed and persecuted in the country by government forces.

At least 400,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in what the UN has called a "textbook case of ethnic cleansing."

The additional $32 million in aid from the U.S. comes amid criticism that the Trump administration has not done enough to condemn the Myanmar government for brutally attacking the Rohingya.

The money -- reappropriated from existing funds in the State Department -- brings the total U.S. aid to $95 million.

The funds will go to international aid groups such as the International Organization for Migration, UNICEF and UNHCR.

The government has severely limited the access these groups have to the Rohingya people and that has not changed, according to Simon Henshaw, acting assistant secretary of state for population, refugee and migration.

"We are urging the Burmese government to control the violence in the area, to cease attacks against civilians, and to create safe conditions so that the Rohingya that have fled feel safe to return," Henshaw told reporters this week.

In 1989 the ruling military junta changed the country's name from Burma to Myanmar. The name change has not been recognized by several countries, including the U.S.

Henshaw said his bureau "absolutely" has the funds needed to address the crisis.

The U.S. has been gently prodding the government in Myanmar, especially head of state Aung San Suu Kyi, to do more to quell the violence between its security forces and a small Rohingya rebel group in the western state Rakhine. Instead, the government has been accused of a violent crackdown on all Rohingya, including charges of killings, burning villages and even "ethnic cleansing," according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and Human Rights Watch.

         
              
                     
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                SLIDESHOW: Rohingya flee western Myanmar in growing numbers             
        
    
    

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Suu Kyi Tuesday to relay that message and deployed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy to the country to meet with government officials.

The recent violence erupted on Aug. 25 when the Rohingya Muslim insurgent group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army launched a coordinated attack on authorities. But tensions between the Rohingya, who are not recognized as an official ethnic nationality by Myanmar officials, and the Rakhine, who make up the majority of the state, are long-running.