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White House condemns violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

The White House has condemned the violence in Myanmar and called on the security authorities to respect the rule of law and end the massive displacement of people, including large numbers of the ethnic Rohingya community. An estimated 300,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled across the border into Bangladesh after a crackdown by Myanmar security forces in response to an attack on a military outpost by Rohingya militants on August 25.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the massive displacement and victimisation of people, including large numbers of the ethnic Rohingya community and other minorities, shows that Myanmar security forces are not protecting civilians. “The United States is deeply troubled by the ongoing crisis in northern Rakhine State in Burma, where at least 300,000 people have fled their homes in the wake of attacks on Burmese security posts on August 25. We reiterate our condemnation of those attacks and ensuing violence,” Sanders told reporters at a daily news conference.

Sanders said the US is alarmed by the allegations of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, burning of villages, massacres, and rape, by security forces and by civilians acting with these forces’ consent. “We call on Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities,” Sanders said urging Burmese security forces to work with the elected government in implementing the Rakhine Commission’s recommendations.

Welcoming the Burmese government’s commitment to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches victims as quickly as possible, Sanders urged the government to allow media access to the afflicted areas as soon as possible. “Most of those displaced by the violence have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh and we greatly appreciate the significant efforts of the government of Bangladesh to facilitate humanitarian assistance,” Sanders said.

According to a senior State Department official, so far in FY 2017, the US has provided nearly USD 63 million in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable communities displaced in Myanmar and from Myanmar in the region, including Bangladesh. “The US Government is working with the diplomatic community, the UN, and other international organisations to urge Burmese authorities to provide unfettered humanitarian access and ensure humanitarian assistance reaches all communities in need,” a State Department spokesperson said.

In a separate statement, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemned attacks on civilians and security forces in Rakhine State. Burma’s security forces have razed entire villages, slaughtered families, and even placed landmines in the path of fleeing refugees, creating “a staggering humanitarian disaster,” according to USCIRF’s Chairman Daniel Mark.

“Burma’s security forces must end their attacks on civilians in Rakhine State,” said Mark. “We call upon Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to unequivocally condemn the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State. Burma’s government and military must uphold their international humanitarian and human rights commitments,” he said.

The US has been seeking closer relations with the democratically-elected government of Burma, also known as Myanmar.

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