US Senators Seek Action on Rohingya Refugee Crisis

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The Myanmar government on Thursday said it asked veteran US diplomat Bill Richardson to resign from an advisory panel on the Rohingya Muslim crisis in western Myanmar's Rakhine state because he was pursuing "his own agenda".

"It is with great disappointment that I announce my resignation from the Advisory Board on Rakhine State", Bill Richardson, who is also a former New Mexico governor, senior US politician and close friend of Suu Kyi, said in a statement.

Richardson said he got into an argument with Suu Kyi on Monday about the arrest of two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the crisis in Myanmar.

"Freedom of the press to report the facts is a fundamental bedrock of democracy", he added.

The advisory board was meant to help the government implement the recommendations of a fact-finding commission helmed by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The United Nations on Wednesday called on Myanmar to give aid agencies unhindered access to camps it has built for tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees before they can return after fleeing Myanmar military operations a year ago.

The armed forces have been accused by Rohingya witnesses and human rights activists of carrying out killings, rapes and arson in a campaign senior officials in the United Nations and US have described as ethnic cleansing.

There were around one million Rohingya people in Myanmar at the start of 2017, where they have their own language and culture.

This latest contribution, combined with earlier contributions, brings the total amount awarded to the World Food Programme specifically for work with refugees in Bangladesh to more than $24 million since August previous year, the US Embassy said.

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"He needs to understand clearly that he is supposed to give advice only about the Rakhine issue, not everything about Myanmar", he said.

Refugees living in squalid camps in Cox's Bazar with minimal aid and basic services have been protesting against the start of repatriation without "concrete promises of citizenship and basic rights" in Myanmar since January 19.

However, many Rohingya have expressed worries with the agreement, saying they do not feel safe returning home and would prefer to stay in Bangladesh refugee camps.

Giving her second observation on the Rohingya crisis, Ambassador Teerink said they can put pressure on the Myanmar government but the question is how they can convince people in Rakhine to welcome Rohingyas.

The Rohingya, described by the United Nations as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

"In view of the difference of opinion that developed, the government decided that his continued participation on the board would not be in the best interest of all concerned", said a statement issued Thursday by the office of Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a statement that pulled few punches, the former U.S. governor and one-time Suu Kyi ally said he could not in "good conscience" serve on the committee that would likely serve only to "whitewash" the causes behind the Rohingya exodus.

"I hope this will be a wake-up call for her", Mr. Richardson said of his resignation.

On Tuesday, Myanmar again said it was ready to begin accepting returning refugees.