Myanmar continues ethnic cleansing
12:00 AM, May 31, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:39 AM, May 31, 2018

Myanmar continues ethnic cleansing

Says US religious freedom report; slams attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh

Myanmar continues an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingyas despite growing condemnation from the international community, the US has said.

“I don't think we've seen progress there [Rakhine State] in that country,” said Sam Brownback, ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom while releasing the State Department's annual report-2017 on international religious freedom on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, it also mentioned that there were attacks on religious minorities, particularly Buddhists and Hindus, in Bangladesh last year.

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The report estimates that about 680,000 people fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the violence since August 25 last year. The US envoy said the violence was continuing.

Rather than changing course, Brownback said, Myanmar authorities were ''doubling down'' by opening a new front in Kachin State.

A new offensive by the Myanmar government against Kachin rebels who have fought for decades for a greater autonomy has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis in Kachin mirroring the one in Rakhine State. The rebels are largely a Christian minority group.

In November last year, the US declared that violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine State constituted ethnic cleansing, and the US later imposed sanctions.

Referring to his recent visit to Bangladesh, Brownback said, “I visited several of the refugee camps in Bangladesh about a month ago. The situation is dire. We must do more to help them, as they continue to be targeted for their faith.”

About his visit to Myanmar, the US envoy said he had asked for access to Myanmar and to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi or – and to go to northern Rakhine State, where the problems have been most acute, although there's plenty of problems in various places in Myanmar.

“And I was denied those accesses. So they might have let me in, but they weren't allowing me to have the meetings or access to the places I needed to go,” he added.

The US envoy for global religious freedom said he does not think people have seen progress taking place in Myanmar. ”If anything, the administration there is doubling now its effort and going after the Kachin in the northern part of the country, and the refugee numbers are increasing in the northern part now of Burma [Myanmar],” he added.

Narrating about the ongoing plight of Rohingyas, he said it's a terrible situation that requires the world's attention. “There is a lot of world attention on it, but I think there needs to be more action from the world.”

“You continue to see, as I noted, a horrific situation that fortunately has been reported on in Bangladesh of all the refugees coming out, and the international community and the international press has done a great job reporting this,” said the Trump administration official in response to a question.

“Unfortunately, now you're even seeing them step up again in the north, in the Kachin area, and the number of refugees there has increased in recent – in recent weeks as the fighting there has expanded of another ethnic religious minority being pushed out of the country and their normal areas.”

The International Religious Freedom report details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and describes US actions and policies in support of religious freedom worldwide.

On Bangladesh, the US report said the Bangladesh government has continued to provide law enforcement personnel at religious sites, festivals, and events considered to be possible targets for violence. 

The report, quoting press reports, said the investigation into the 2016 killings of six secular bloggers, online activists, writers, and publishers remained “inconclusive.”

In November last year, a mob, angered by a Facebook post reportedly demeaning Islam, burned and vandalised approximately 30 houses belonging to Hindus in the northern district of Rangpur.

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