US diplomat says Aung San Suu Kyi must end persecution …
A US State department official has told Sky News that Aung San Suu Kyi must now take responsibility and end the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in her country.
Simon Henshaw, who leads the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, recently returned from Myanmar and Bangladesh where he led a delegation of State Department officials to see first-hand the plight of the Rohingya people.
The assistant secretary praised Sky’s “excellent reporting” from the region which highlighted some of the suffering he too had witnessed.
In the exclusive interview, he also called on Ms Suu Kyi, whose country is also called Burma, to do more.
He said: “She is the democratic leader and it’s her responsibility to move forward and find the solution to this problem.
“The solution has to be geared around the voluntary repatriation of those who have left, and that requires some solid steps on the Burmese side, which include creating a safe and secure environment, ensuring that people can go back to the houses that they left, and a political reconciliation based on committee recommendations.”
Mr Henshaw also reflected on his own experience on the ground.
He added: “I was stunned by the amount of animosity between the two sides, particularly against the Rohingya, when we visited the state on our trip, and that is why political reconciliation is so necessary.
“You can’t just move people back and expect everything to be fine, because I would expect there to be a similar outburst of violence.
“So what needs to be done between political reconciliation of two sides, and assuring the Rohingya people of their rights in that state and in the country actually.”
The US has been cautiously stepping up pressure on the army in Myanmar, while trying to avoid endangering the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been in Manila holding talks with the de facto leader.
On Wednesday, he is expected to take a firmer tone with the country’s military leader, who he deems responsible for the crisis facing the Rohingya.
Mr Henshaw says there are a number “of options” to consider, including targeted economic sanctions and an arms embargo.
He added: “We believe that those who committed atrocities, both in the security forces and vigilante groups, should be held accountable.”
Asked why the US administration had not labelled the crisis as genocide or ethical cleansing, the diplomat responded: “I think the world has responded firmly – we have certainly used pretty tough language since the very beginning of this issue in calling out the reports of atrocities and calling on the Burmese government to take control and get their security services under control.”
The State department has committed close to $40m (£30m) in aid since 25 August and pushed to take a more active role in the region.
But up until now, the State department has largely strengthened a few punitive measures aimed at Myanmar’s army.
In the next few weeks they will consider what further action, if any, they can take.
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