Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley echoes the U.N.’s accusations of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, reports Reuters Thursday. Haley delivered her speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York City during a security council meeting nearly a week ago on September 21.

In her remarks, Haley demanded Myanmar’s leaders be reprimanded, calling for the removal and punishment of military leaders behind the ongoing repression. Reuters points out that Haley didn’t threaten U.S. sanctions, which were suspended during the Obama administration.

The Trump administration had, according to Reuters, “mostly hewed to former President Barack Obama’s approach of forging warmer relations with Myanmar.” Vox points out that the Trump administration has received criticism for its handling of human rights abuses around the world. Reuters argues the approach aims, in part, at countering China’s influence in the resource-rich country.

The region where Myanmar lies is in Southeast Asia. The country is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its west, China to its north, and Laos and Thailand to its east and south. China and Russia have both expressed support for the Myanmar regime. Myanmar reported earlier in September they were in negotiations with China and Russia, seeking protection against possible actions enforced by the U.N. China and Russia hold veto powers in the U.N. Security Council.

“The Burmese military must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Haley spoke to the U.N. “Those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and persecuted for wrongdoing.”

Throughout the crisis, Myanmar officials have roundly rejected the U.N.’s and other accusations, persistent in denouncing any rights abuses.

“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be–a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,” Haley addressed the U.N. Security Council.

Haley’s speech was the first time Washington, under the Trump administration, has voiced agreement with the U.N.’s previous accusations of the ethnic cleansing against Myanmar. The U.N. has held to the stance that the “displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in the Rakhine State [is] ethnic cleansing.”

Haley was firm in her condemnation of Myanmar’s military authorities, going one step further in demanding countries stop supplying Myanmar with weapons.

“Any country that is currently providing weapons to the Burmese military should suspend these activities until sufficient accountability measures are in place,” she proclaimed.

Myanmar’s national security adviser, Thaung Tun, also spoke at the security council meeting. He told the U.N. that there was “no ethnic cleansing or genocide happening in Myanmar.” Tun related Myanmar had already invited Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary-General, to visit the country and see for himself the evidence of their claims. Guterres has said he would visit Myanmar given the right conditions.

Aid groups, confirmed by the U.N., have reported over 500,000 Rohingya ethnic Muslims have virtually poured out of Myanmar since August 25, Vox writes. The Rohingya, an ethnic minority in Myanmar, have been fleeing a Rakhine state-led campaign of indiscriminate violence at the hands of their military. Myanmar authorities report 176 of 471 Rohingya villages are now empty.

On Thursday, “up to 63 Rohingya refugees–many of them women and children–appear to have drowned when their boat capsized en route to Bangladesh,” vox reports. As of now, only 23 bodies have been recovered.

Although the international stage has only recently given voice to the growing crisis of the Rohingya in Myanmar, the latest rounds of violence signify the third wave of such brutality in the past five years.

In 2012, the first wave of violence saw thousands of Rohingya placed in “internal displacement camps;” stories ran rampant about violence towards men, women and children alike. The second wave was more recent, in 2016. It was triggered by an attack on border guards by a small group of Rohingya insurgents. After which, around 74,000 Rohingya reportedly fled the country, “carrying with them stories of rape and carnage, death and destruction.”

Previous to the second wave of violence in 2016, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide sent a “fact-finding mission” to Myanmar in 2015. The mission returned with worrying reports, claiming that the right signs were already in motion for a genocide.

Vox cites what is currently happening in Myanmar as “medieval” in its level of violence and atrocities.

The latest unrest has seen entire villages burned to the ground, women raped, refugees being shot out as they fled their homes, and land mines placed along refugees’ paths across the border into Bangladesh.

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