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U.S. review to confirm ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims

By in Press Enterprise on October 24, 2017

By The Associated Press

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are preparing a recommendation for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to declare that “ethnic cleansing” is occurring against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims. That assessment would raise pressure on the Trump administration to consider new sanctions on a country that had been lauded for its democratic transition.

Tillerson could receive the recommendation as early as this week, said officials familiar with the process. He will then decide whether to adopt the advice of his agency’s policy experts and lawyers. At a Senate hearing Tuesday, outraged U.S. lawmakers pressed the administration to unequivocally adopt the term.

A declaration of “ethnic cleansing” by the top U.S. diplomat would mark a reversal of fortune in American relations with the country also known as Burma, whose civilian government has been under the leadership of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for more than a year. But Suu Kyi and her government allies have little control over Myanmar’s still powerful military, which is blamed for a brutal crackdown on Muslims in Rakhine State that has caused more than 600,000 refugees to flee to Bangladesh.

Patrick Murphy, a senior U.S. diplomat for Southeast Asia, told the hearing: “My bosses have said it appears to be ethnic cleansing. I’m of that view as well.” But he added he could not make that call himself until the department finalizes its determination.

“In the meantime, we conclude there have been atrocities, massive displacement, depopulation of villages,” he said. “We are pursuing all avenues for accountability.”

The “ethnic cleansing” recommendation is being prepared as U.S. lawmakers urge fresh sanctions on Myanmar’s military and are calling on the Trump administration to sever already restricted military ties.

“If we don’t do something to end this cycle of violence with impunity, it will happen again. The next country is going to do it,” said […]    

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