US asks top Myanmar official for Rohingya culpability

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has personally urged a top Myanmarese minister to hold to account those responsible for human rights abuses against the country's minority Muslim Rohingya people, the State Department said Friday.

The appeal came during a bilateral meeting between Pompeo and Myanmar's Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor, Kyaw Tint Swe, on the margins of the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

"While underscoring U.S. support for the democratic transition in Burma [Myanmar] and efforts to achieve national peace and reconciliation, the Secretary urged the Government of Burma to take concrete steps to investigate the human rights abuses chronicled by the U.S. Documentation Report and UN Fact Finding Mission and to hold accountable members of the security forces and others responsible for these acts," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Pompeo also called for the immediate release of two jailed Reuters journalists.

The report Nauert was referring to chronicled the Myanmar military's persecution of the Rohingya, saying "the vast majority of Rohingya refugees experienced or directly witnessed extreme violence and the destruction of their homes."

“The scope and scale of the military’s operations indicate they were well-planned and coordinated,” the report released Monday said. It was referring to the Myanmar military's violence against the Rohingya in the country's northern Rakhine State.

According to the report, the Rohingya identified the Myanmarese military as the perpetrator "in 84 [percent] of the killings or injuries they witnessed," the report said.

The Rohingya said the security forces used flamethrowers and incendiary devices to burn down houses and kill and injure the Rohingya, accusing the military of targeting "civilians indiscriminately and often with extreme brutality."

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, entitled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.