U.S. wary of involvement with Myanmar humanitarian conflict as Muslims flee region

U.S. wary of involvement with Myanmar humanitarian conflict as Muslims flee region
From Global News - September 9, 2017

Dont expect the United States to step in and resolve what is increasingly being described as an ethnic cleansing campaign against Myanmars Rohingya Muslims.

Not wanting to undermine the Asian countrys democratic leader, the U.S. is cautiously criticizing what looks like a forced exodus of more than a quarter-million Rohingya in the last two weeks as Myanmars military responds with hammer force to insurgent attacks.

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But neither Donald Trumps administration officials nor lawmakers are readying sanctions or levying real pressure on Aung San Suu Kyis government. A bill making its way through Congress seeks to enhance U.S.-Myanmar military cooperation.

Further normalization of the military-to-military relationship with Burma is the last thing we should be doing right now, said Walter Lohman, Asia program director at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. What a terrible signal to be sending.

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Human rights groups are equally appalled. The U.N. says 290,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar, the country also known as Burma, into neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25. It is the biggest flight of the long-suppressed minority in a generation. The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar, regarded by majority Buddhists as illegal immigrants although many have lived in the ethnically diverse Southeast Asian nation for generations.

Rohingya refugees packed into camps in Bangladesh are becoming desperate. Fights are erupting over food and water. Vivian Tan, speaking for the U.N. refugee agency, said new arrivals are setting up spontaneous settlements along roadsides or on any available patches of land.

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We are seeing the mushrooming of these very flimsy shelters that will not be able to house people for too long, she said.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has previously warned of the risk of genocide in Myanmar, says the widespread destruction of homes and villages suggests an effort to ethnically cleanse the region of its Rohingya population and to prevent their eventual return.

Refugees International accuses the military of blocking life-saving aid and of committing rights abuses, which we believe amount to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It called for re-imposition of sanctions against military officials, such as visa bans and asset freezes, and international accountability for officers implicated in wrongdoing.

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Although the U.S. has long led the international effort to address human rights abuses and bring democracy to Myanmar, the prospects of Washington leading a new pressure campaign appear slim.

U.S. officials are wary of undermining the weak civilian government of Suu Kyi, which took office last year, ending five decades of ruinous army rule. The military remains politically powerful and oversees security operations, but Suu Kyi is still seen by Washington as key to sustaining civilian rule and eventually addressing the Rohingyas long-term grievances. Last year she invited an international commission led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to help her government address the sectarian tensions.

Another obstacle: Re-imposing even limited sanctions on abusive military officials would probably require new legislation or executive action.

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