BANGKOK – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday levying sanctions on Myanmar will not resolve the Rohingya crisis.
Tillerson, who is on a visit to Myanmar, called for an independent investigation into allegations of human rights abuses against the ethnic Muslim minority group in Rakhine State (west), at a joint press conference with Myanmar’s de facto head and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw.
“In all my meetings I have called on Myanmar’s civilian government to lead a full and effective independent investigation, and for the military to facilitate full access and cooperation” in Rakhine, Tillerson said.
Tillerson, who also met the armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar’s capital, said the visit has allowed him to understand the complexity of the situation, that he says, has no easy solution.
Suu Kyi reiterated her position that the crisis can only be resolved through rule of law and faith in the justice system.
The latest Rohingya crisis had erupted on Aug. 25, when Rohingya rebels had launched a series of attacks against government posts in the region. The Myanmar army had responded with a military offensive leading to hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
According to the United Nations, which described the offensive as ethnic cleansing, around 615,500 Rohingyas (622,000 according to the Bangladesh government) have taken refuge in Bangladesh since the crisis erupted.
The Myanmar army has, however, repeatedly refuted reports of abuses, including murders, tortures and rapes.
Myanmar was ruled by the military junta from 1962-2011, when power was handed over to a military-backed government to manage the transition of power.
A democratic government, led by Suu Kyi who spent 15 years under house arrest during the junta rule, came to power in 2016 but its power is limited by the 2008 Constitution, a legacy of the military dictatorship.
The armed forces of the country control one-fourth of the seats in the parliament, including key portfolios like defense, interior and border affairs.