US ‘ethnic cleansing’ charge unhelpful, says Myanmar

US ‘ethnic cleansing’ charge unhelpful, says Myanmar

Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hold a joint press conference in Naypyitaw on Nov. 15.

The US decision to label the Myanmar Army’s counter-insurgency operation in northern Rakhine as “ethnic cleansing” is “unhelpful” for Myanmar’s efforts to bring about durable peace in the state, President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said.

After avoiding the term during his visit to Myanmar last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday (Nov 22) described the Myanmar Army’s actions against Rohingya Muslims as “ethnic cleansing”.

The crisis developed after an Aug. 25 attack by militants against government security forces sparked a military clearance operation, which prompted over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into Bangladesh amid allegations of human rights abuses.

“The situation in northern Rakhine State constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Tillerson said in a statement.

“That statement is unhelpful for Myanmar [which is] trying to find long-term solutions. We found that the statement failed to mention the killings of Hindus and innocent civilians by ARSA, and its conclusions were reached without any proven facts,” U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy.

Washington will also pursue accountability through U.S. law, including possible targeted sanctions against those responsible for the alleged abuses, which have driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya into Bangladesh, according to the statement.