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‘US to take in Rohingyas’

Western nations to continue support for displaced Myanmar nationals’ pursuit of justice

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 26 August, 2022 12:00 AM
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US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken has said they are working to significantly increase resettlement of Rohingyas in the United States as over one million displaced nationals of Myanmar on Thursday marked the 5th anniversary of their exodus to Bangladesh fleeing military atrocities at their homeland.

“As an essential component of an international, comprehensive humanitarian response, we’re working to significantly increase resettlement of Rohingya refugees from the region, including from Bangladesh, so that they can rebuild their lives in the United States,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Bangladesh is hosting more than one million Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar over decades, including some 740,000 who crossed the border in August 2017 after the Myanmar military launched a “cleansing operation” against them -- razing villages, raping women and perpetrating large-scale violence that killed thousands of Rohingya men, women and children.

The safety situation in Myanmar has worsened since a military takeover last year and attempts to send them back failed.

The US secretary of state said his country remains committed to advancing justice and accountability for Rohingyas and all the people of Myanmar in solidarity with the victims and survivors.

“We continue to support the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the case under the Genocide Convention that The Gambia has brought against Burma (Myanmar) before the International Court of Justice, and credible courts around the world that have jurisdiction in cases involving Burmese military’s atrocity crimes,” he said.

Blinken said the US also supports measures by the UN Security Council to promote justice and accountability for the military’s actions in line with its mandate to promote international peace and security.

In this vein, he said, the US will support a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court.

“In March of this year, I spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and attested that the atrocities committed by the Burmese military against Rohingya amounted to crimes against humanity and constitute genocide,” the US secretary of state said.

Since the February 2021 military coup d’état, many of the same military forces continue to repress, torture, and kill the people of Burma in a blatant attempt to extinguish Myanmar’s democratic future.

The regime’s recent executions of pro-democracy and opposition leaders is only the latest example of the military’s abject disregard for the lives of the Burmese people.

Its escalation of violence has exacerbated the worsening humanitarian situation, particularly for ethnic and religious minority communities, including Rohingyas, who continue to remain among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in the country, Blinken said.

Since 2017, the US has sought pathways to continue to support the Rohingya, recognising that they cannot safely return to their homeland of Myanmar under current conditions, he said. “We have provided more than $1.7 billion to assist those affected by the crisis in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and elsewhere in the region, remaining the leading single donor of life-saving humanitarian assistance to those whose lives have been upended by the violence in Rakhine State,” Blinken said, adding that the US stands in solidarity with the government of Bangladesh and other Rohingya-hosting governments in the region.

The US said it will continue to support Rohingyas and the people of Burma in their pursuit of freedom and inclusive democracy by advancing justice and accountability, increasing economic and diplomatic pressure, and safeguarding the human rights and human dignity of all individuals in Myanmar.

Separately, a joint statement by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union, and the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States said they remained concerned by the UN fact-finding mission’s establishment of consistent patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses, of which many amount to grave crimes under international law.

“We also recognise other initiatives to hold perpetrators accountable, including The Gambia’s efforts before the International Court of Justice, which is currently examining whether the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military against Rohingyas amounted also to genocide,” reads the joint statement.

“We reiterate that Myanmar must comply with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures order,” it said.

The same actors that committed these reprehensible actions led the military coup d’état in February 2021, and today continue to perpetrate atrocities against political dissidents and vulnerable populations, including other ethnic and religious minorities across Myanmar, and have done so for decades, the foreign ministers added.

Calling for action, human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in separate statements said the anniversary should prompt governments concerned to do more to hold the Myanmar military account and secure justice and safety for the Rohingyas in Bangladesh, Myanmar and across the region.

“Governments should mark the five-year anniversary of the devastating campaign against the Rohingyas with a coordinated international strategy for accountability and justice that draws on Rohingya input,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch.