The United States sharply escalated its pressure on Myanmar officials on Wednesday over widening attacks on the country’s Muslim minority, describing the violence and massive refugee flight as “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya Muslims.
The statement by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could signal a greater push by the Trump administration to impose wider sanctions against Myanmar authorities and others blamed for the humanitarian crisis.
More than 600,000 Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine State have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, creating one of the world’s most dire refugee dilemmas.
“No provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued,” said Tillerson, who cited Myanmar forces and “local vigilantes” for the campaign against the Rohinjya.
Last week, following talks with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Tillerson cited “credible reports” of atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces and said Washington could consider targeted sanctions against Myanmar officials.
Officials in Myanmar, a mostly Buddhist nation also known as Burma, deny accusations of a systematic offensive against the Rohingya and claim the military intervened in Rakhine to battle Muslim insurgents.