US military to release report on Myanmar Rohingya crisis ahead of first anniversary

US military to release report on Myanmar Rohingya crisis ahead of first anniversary

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will release a report detailing the actions of Myanmar’s authorities against the Rohingya people

Rohingya refugee children walk in Palong Khali camp, near Cox’s Bazar

Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will release a report detailing the actions of Myanmar’s authorities against the Rohingya people today.

Before the refugee crisis, 1.1 million Rohingya were concentrated in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state. A 1982 citizenship law stripped the minority of Burmese nationality, making the Rohingya a stateless people. Exactly one year ago today, Myanmar military forces began a bloody crackdown against the Rohingya population, forcing some 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh as refugees.

The UN has labelled the atrocities “ethnic cleansing”, a designation the US also gave when enacting sanctions on specific Myanmar officers on August 17. Given previous rhetoric, today’s report will likely outline a harsher US stance, potentially sanctioning higher level military officials or labelling the tragedy a genocide.

The US could also spur a stronger global response in support of the Rohingya. Key US allies, like the EU, Japan, and South Korea, account for more than 20% of Myanmar’s exports, so sanctions against Myanmar beyond those targeting individuals could influence the government to alter the treatment of the Rohingya.

However, doing so also risks pushing Myanmar into the arms of its key strategic partner—China—and undermining a fragile democratisation process.

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