Trump administration investigates sanctions against Myanmar in response to 'textbook genocide' against the Rohingya
The Trump administration withdrew assistance from Myanmar's military on Tuesday in response to the forces' recorded atrocities against the minority Rohingya population, The Guardian reports. The State Department is also considering additional targeted sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, "a law that allows the U.S. to freeze assets and impose visa bans on selected individuals," NPR writes.
Since the crisis broke out in August, more than 600,000 refugees have fled Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) into neighboring Bangladesh and hundreds more have been killed by security forces. The United Nations deemed the violence "textbook genocide." The Trump administration has been criticized for its slow reaction to the crisis, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying the U.S. is "extraordinarily concerned," but taking little action so far.
"The Obama administration had a Burma policy, it was reasonably effective," David Steinberg, the former director of Asian studies at Georgetown University, told The Washington Post. "The Trump administration has no policy."
In a statement Tuesday, the State Department explained: "We have rescinded invitations for senior Burmese security forces to attend U.S.-sponsored events; we are working with international partners to urge that Burma enables unhindered access to relevant areas for the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission, international humanitarian organizations, and media." Some experts fear that will not be enough: "There must also be an effort to seriously engage the Burmese military leadership," the Post's Josh Rogin writes. See photos from the Rohingya's "desperate search for a safe refuge" here at The Week. Jeva Lange
In the process of forcing Rohingya Muslims to leave Myanmar, the country's military has killed hundreds of men, women, and children and burned down villages, a report out Wednesday by Amnesty International says.
Since 1982, Myanmar has denied citizenship to the Rohingya, and they are not one of the ethnic groups officially recognized by the government. On Aug. 25, an insurgent group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked dozens of security posts, and in retaliation, Myanmar security forces have been going from village to village, burning down buildings and shooting residents as they try to run away, witnesses told Amnesty International. In the chaos, more than 580,000 refugees have made their way to Bangladesh, with about 60 percent of the refugees being children.
Amnesty International has interviewed more than 120 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and they described villages being set ablaze, residents being shot at as they tried to escape, and the rape of women and young girls by Myanmar security forces. Many of those who died in the villages were sick, disabled, or elderly, and unable to flee from burning buildings, the witnesses said.
While it's not known how many people have died, satellite imagery shows the destruction of Rohingya buildings and mosques, with non-Rohingya dwellings just a few yards away intact, Amnesty International crisis researcher Matthew Wells told The Associated Press. "It speaks to how organized, how seemingly well-planned this scorched-earth campaign has been by the Myanmar military, and how determined the effort has been to drive the Rohingya population out of the country," he said. Catherine Garcia
At least 12 Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar, including five children, died Monday when the boat they were in capsized off the shore of Bangladesh.
There were up to 35 people on the overcrowded boat when it capsized, police said. Eight refugees survived, and it's unclear how many have been reported missing. A search and rescue mission is underway.
Since Aug. 25, when the military in Myanmar started what it called "clearance operations" following an attack by insurgents that left several police officers and border guards dead, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have left Myanmar. Those who have made it to Bangladesh said the Myanmar military is burning down their villages in Rakhine state, The Associated Press reports, and the United Nations has accused the Myanmar military of "ethnic cleansing." Since August, at least 155 Rohingya have died in boat accidents while attempting to get to Bangladesh. Catherine Garcia
An aid truck hired by the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver aid to Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh drove off a road and into a ditch Thursday morning, killing at least nine aid workers and injuring 10 others. More than 420,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from their home in Myanmar since Aug. 25, when an attack by Rohingya insurgents sparked a harsh crackdown on the minority group in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. The Bangladeshi workers killed and injured were delivering food packages to 500 Rohingya families, ICRC spokeswoman Misada Saif said, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent are "very shocked and sad" at the deaths of workers "there to help the people who desperately need help."
Hours earlier, a Buddhist mob in the capital of Myanmar's Rakhine state tried to block a shipment of bottled water, food, blankets, mosquito nets, and other supplies for the Rohingya being loaded onto a ship. Some 300 protesters started throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at police trying to protect the loading of Red Cross supplies, and police fired in the air to ward them off, an officer tells The Associated Press. Peter Weber