LONDON: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has delivered the toughest condemnation yet from a Trump administration official of the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, likening the violence against them to ethnic cleansing and demanding it stop.
Tillerson directed the blame toward Myanmar’s powerful military, which is responsible for security operations that have seen nearly 400,000 people flee to neighboring Bangladesh in the past three weeks after Rohingya insurgents launched coordinated attacks on government forces. He reiterated support for civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is facing growing pressure to speak out over the military’s conduct.
Tillerson said the US appreciated the “difficult and complex situation” Suu Kyi finds herself in, sharing political power with the military, but he also described the “horrors” occurring in the Southeast Asian nation as a “defining moment” for its new democracy.
“This violence must stop, this persecution must stop. It has been characterized by many as ethnic cleansing. That must stop,” Tillerson told a news conference in London after talks with Britain and France. “We need to support Aung San Suu Kyi and her leadership but also be very clear to the military that are power-sharing in that government that this is unacceptable.”
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was more strident in criticizing Suu Kyi. He said the suffering of the Rohingya people was an “abomination,” and that Suu Kyi must use her authority to halt the violence against them.