WASHINGTON – US Secretary of the State Rex Tillerson congratulated Myanmar on Tuesday on the occasion of the Asian country’s upcoming Independence Day on Jan. 4 and took the opportunity to urge the Myanmar government to ensure everyone has full and equal opportunities.
“I offer congratulations to President Htin Kyaw and the people of Myanmar on the occasion of Myanmar’s Independence Day (...) At the same time, we urge authorities to take further steps to ensure everyone has full and equal access to the opportunities and the benefits of a democratic society,” Tillerson said in statement.
The head of the US Department of State recalled in the statement released Tuesday that “for decades” the US has stood with the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of “peace, freedom, and justice.”
In November, Tillerson traveled to Myanmar to address the acute humanitarian crisis affecting the Rohingya community, a Muslim ethnic minority group, which has been described as “ethnic cleansing” by the US government.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh after the Myanmar authorities launched a series of military operations against the Muslim minority, in retaliation to an attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s (ARSA) on several security posts in August during which a dozen soldiers were killed.
On Tuesday, the government of Bangladesh announced that it had sent the Burmese government a first list with the names of 100,000 Rohingyas who had fled to Bangladesh, for possible repatriation to Burma as part of the agreement signed between the two countries.
The agreement stipulates, among other things, that the process be started within two months, although Myanmar, which does not recognize the Rohingya as its citizens and considers them foreigners, had agreed to their return provided they have the required documents and are not involved in any alleged acts of terrorism.