Myanmar: Rohingya returns unthinkable until apartheid system is dismantled

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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis leaves for Myanmar on Sunday at the start of a first ever visit to the country, formerly known as Burma.

Tillerson slammed Myanmar's military and local vigilantes for carrying out "horrendous atrocities" and causing "tremendous suffering" in its campaign in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state where the Rohingya population is concentrated.

The statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the strongest USA condemnation yet of the crackdown, accusing Myanmar's security forces of perpetrating "horrendous atrocities" against the group.

In its statement, Myanmar State Counsellor's Office said, "Western countries as well the OIC had portrayed the matter as an global issue by passing resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly".

It is a belated departure for the United States, which has used careful, restrained language since the latest crackdown began in August. Many live in a sprawling refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, a coastal area in southeastern Bangladesh.

Tillerson said his government was joining the United Nations and other countries to document facts in Myanmar and "pursue accountability". But while Washington has shifted gears rhetorically, it hasn't taken any steps to punish Myanmar's government just yet.

Even in his later statement, condemning the actions by "some among the Burmese military" as "ethnic cleansing", Tillerson confirmed that the U.S. will stand by its decision to support the Myanmar government in the resolution of the crisis.

Bangladesh in its senior officials meeting here on Wednesday raised the issue of keeping a provision for a timeframe over completion of the Rohingya repatriation, a senior official told UNB. "It does not require any new obligations, but it does emphasize our concern about the situation".

Myanmar: Rohingya returns unthinkable until apartheid system is dismantled
Myanmar: Rohingya returns unthinkable until apartheid system is dismantled

The statement from Tillerson, who visited Myanmar on November 15, is the strongest U.S. condemnation yet of the military's crackdown on the Rohingyas.

But none of the State Department's recent statements on the Rohingya crisis or its explanation of the designation of "ethnic cleansing" included any special mention of the extremely high incidence of sexual violence, including the systematic use of gang rape - which Human Rights Watch recently cited as a tool being used to commit ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. "The time for outrage and condemnation has passed". The government has accepted the report, as well as other organisations, he says, so "we need to build a road map, based on the recommendations, and work together to implement it".

Since October 2016, the conflict between Myanmar's Buddhist majority and the predominantly Muslim Rohingya has escalated considerably.

More than 620,000 Rohingyas, a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, have fled into Bangladesh, escaping what the United States on Wednesday termed "ethnic cleansing" by Myanmar's security forces.

Amid mounting worldwide pressure, Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said they have planned to sign a MoU with Bangladesh this week which will enable them to start the repatriation process of all the Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

"It's my call to Myanmar to start taking back soon their nationals from Bangladesh".

"The lack of transparency in releasing the text so far is emblematic of the larger lack of any sort of meaningful consultation with the refugees that these two governments want to load on to trucks and send back in two months' time", Phil Roberts, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told DVB.

"A number of sources indicate that we are seeing a sophisticated campaign created to discredit and destabilize the Myanmar government", wrote U Thaung Tun.

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