The Latest: US reviewing possible Myanmar ethnic cleansing

October 24, 2017

A Rohingya Muslim boy Rehmat Ullaha, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, carries a sack of rice given to him in aid at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. U.N. humanitarian officials, high-level government envoys and advocacy group leaders on Monday opened a one-day conference aimed at drumming up funds to help ethnic Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, as the influx from Myanmar has topped 600,000 since late August. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the U.S. response to Myanmar’s refugee crisis (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

The State Department is declining to say there has been ethnic cleansing in Myanmar before it completes a review into the matter.

Three officials testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign were asked for yes or no answer on whether the crackdown that has caused an exodus of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh was ethnic cleansing.

Patrick Murphy, a senior diplomat for Southeast Asia, said: “My bosses have said it appears to be ethnic cleansing. I’m of that view as well.” But he added that he couldn’t make that call himself.

He said there have been “atrocities, massive displacement, depopulation of villages.”

U.S. officials tell The Associated Press the department is preparing a recommendation as early as this week for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to declare that “ethnic cleansing” is occurring


10:36 a.m.

Senior senators are demanding a rethink of U.S. policy toward Myanmar in response to what they call a systematic military campaign to force Rohingya Muslims out of the country.

Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, characterized the crackdown as “genocide” and said the U.S. should seek accountability for the perpetrators.

He said half of the Rohingya population in Myanmar had left the country and villages were burned systematically.

Cardin told a hearing Tuesday the U.S. needs to re-evaluate whether it should have normal relations with Myanmar.

Bob Corker, the Republican committee chair, questioned whether the Obama administration had rolled back sanctions too quickly in response to its shift toward democracy.

The State Department on Monday announced steps to further curb already restricted ties with Myanmar’s military.


3:55 a.m.

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 and American lawmakers to consider new sanctions on a country that had been lauded for its democratic transition.

Officials familiar with the process say Tillerson could receive the recommendation as early as this week. He will then decide on whether to adopt the advice of his agency’s policy experts and lawyers.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the internal process and requested anonymity.

Myanmar’s still-powerful military is accused of a brutal crackdown on Rohingya in Rakhine State that has caused more than 600,000 refugees to flee to Bangladesh.

Update hourly