Washington: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that the United States blamed Myanmar’s military leaders for the Rohingya refugee crisis, making a distinction with the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar’s recent return to power has given it a hybrid government in which the military still has extensive powers in the security field and in the state of Rakhine where the United Nations has reported ethnic cleansing.
“We are extraordinarily concerned about what is happening with Rohingya in Burma,” said Tillerson.
“I have been in contact with Aung San Suu Kyi, the civil party leader of the government, as they know that this is a government that shares power.
“We really hold military leaders accountable for what is happening,” he said, warning that the world will not stop and that “it will witness the atrocities that have been denounced.”
In the last seven weeks, more than half a million Rohingyas fled Rakhine and crossed into Bangladesh.
Their stories have shocked the globe, with accounts of Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs who murder and rape civilians before setting afire their villages.
The western region was plunged into chaos when Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar police posts on August 25, prompting brutal military repression.
Tillerson said Washington understands that Myanmar is facing “serious rebel terrorist elements” in Rakhine, but warned that the military should be disciplined and “restrained.”
And he said Myanmar should grant more comprehensive access to relief agencies to help civilians and allow the world to “get a better idea of what is happening.”
“It will be blamed for that and it is up to the Burma military leadership to decide what role they want to play in the future of Burma,” he said.
“This is a real test for this power-sharing government.”