US suspends travel to Burma after secretary of state accuses Myanmar of 'ethnic cleansing'
Rex Tillerson accused Myanmar of carrying out "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims and threatened penalties for officials engaged in the brutal crackdown that has resulted in over 600,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.
Testimonials describe accounts of murder, rape and arson committed by the Myanmar army during the military crackdown.
The statement from Tillerson is the strongest US condemnation to date of the military crackdown against the Rohingya minority.
While the Burmese military claim the security crackdown is in response to attacks by Rohingya militants on police posts, Tillerson said, "no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued."
"After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya," Tillerson said in a statement.
Earlier this month, HRW released a report documenting how Myanmar's security forces committed widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State.
Myanmar's authorities have continued to deny the growing documentation. In September, the Rakhine state border security minister rejected the reports saying: "Where is the proof? Look at those women who are making these claims – would anyone want to rape them?"
Scenes of dispossessed Rohingya fleeing en-masse as their villages in Rakhine State burn behind them have provoked outrage around the world.
An internal investigation conducted by the Burmese military was released last week, clearing themselves over the reported Rohingya atrocities. The report, described as 'white-washing' by human rights groups prompted the US secretary of state to call for a "credible" investigation.
The Rohingya have faced discrimination for decades in Buddhist-majority Myanmar where they are denied citizenship and denigrated as illegal 'Bengali' immigrants.