More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a counter-insurgency clearance operation of Myanmar forces in Rakhine. A top U.N. official has called the operation a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing”.
Attending an East Asia summit in Manila on Tuesday, Tillerson met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose less than two-year-old civilian administration shares power with the military and has no control over its generals.
He will meet Suu Kyi again in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw on Wednesday, and hold separate talks with the head of the armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Asked what approach Tillerson would take with Myanmar’s army chief, the State Department official told journalists in a briefing by teleconference that the emphasis would be on restoring peace in Rakhine.
“We are focusing on trying to stabilize areas in northern Rakhine so that people can return there, stopping the violence, making sure that the military would protect all populations in that area equally and that they conduct a credible investigation that leads to accountability for people who have perpetrated abuses,” said the official, who was with Tillerson in Manila and declined to be identified.
The official said the consequences for the country, also known as Burma, if it failed to respond to the crisis with accountability could be part of the conversation with the military leader.