• Press Release

State Department Acknowledges Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar

November 22, 2017

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine state arrive near the Khanchon border crossing near the Bangaldeshi town of Teknaf on Septebmer 5, 2017. Nearly 125,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since a fresh upsurge of violence in Myanmar on August 25, the United Nations said September 5, as fears grow of a humanitarian crisis in the overstretched camps. The UN said 123,600 had crossed the border in the past 11 days from Myanmar's violence-wracked Rakhine state. / AFP PHOTO / K M Asad (Photo credit should read K M ASAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the sustained and systemic attacks on the Rohingya population by the Myanmar military “ethnic cleansing” today in an acknowledgment of the nature of the humanitarian crisis. He also called for an independent probe into north Rakhine State. The announcement comes a week after promising an additional $47 million in humanitarian aid.

“As our own researchers have documented on the ground, the Myanmar military has been brutally murdering, raping, and burning the Rohingya for months. Secretary Tillerson’s acknowledgement of ethnic cleansing and call for an investigation sets an example for how the world can respond to this crisis. The time for outrage and condemnation has passed. The international community must impose a comprehensive arms embargo and targeted financial sanctions against senior Myanmar military officials responsible for crimes against humanity,” said Joanne Lin, national director of advocacy and government relations for Amnesty International USA.

Over 620,000 Rohingya – comparable to the population of Washington DC – have poured into neighboring Bangladesh in the span of two months. Tillerson had previously stated that he holds the leadership of the Myanmar military responsible for attacks carried out against the Rohingya people and their villages and that “the world can’t stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area.”

Amnesty International documented the devastation caused by the military in a recent report, and has confirmed that the military has placed landmines near the border with Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees have fled to seek safety. This week the organization issued a report declaring the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar as apartheid.