Visiting US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback on Thursday said the Myanmar military and other authorities must be held accountable for the ‘horrific and organised violence’ against Rohingyas.
Speaking at a press conference at American Center here, he also said the US will take additional actions against Myanmar since their investigations into the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya religious minority are moving forward.
The US diplomat said their country will continue to focus on the issue with great importance. “We’re also in discussions about what additional actions should take place…the investigation is moving forward, and I think you’ll find additional action in the days to come.”
Brownback arrived here on Wednesday on a two-day official visit and interacted with a group of Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar apart from his discussions on religious freedom with government officials, civil society representatives and others concerned.
“Talking to the Rohingyas it gives me an impression that it’s tragic, horrific and it’s wrong, and it should not be allowed to continue,” he told reporters.
Brownback also said the perpetrators of such a level of atrocities should not get away. “The Burmese military and other authorities must be accountable for the horrific, terrible and organised violence against Rohingyas.”
Narrating his interactions with some Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar, the US diplomat said everybody to whom he talked about their plights witnessed their close family members were either stabbed or killed. “Every one of them was randomly selected. This is a crisis made by the Myanmar military for the cause of religion.”
“One child said she saw both of her grandparents were shot and dead. It’s a horrible form of violence,” he observed.
Brownback said the US is deeply concerned over the Rohingya crisis as their Secretary of State has already described the persecution on Rohingyas by Myanmar as ethnic cleansing.
About the reason behind his tour, the US Ambassador at Large said Rohingya problem is a big crisis to their country as it believes strongly the human rights and religious freedom. “The ethnic cleansing of religious minority is taking place in Myanmar. We think what happening is really wrong. People should not be leaving their country in such huge amount unless something wrong is happening enormously.”
Replying to a question whether he thinks religion is a major reason behind the persecution on Rohingyas, Brownback said during his conversation with the victims everybody but one person said they were pushed out of the country because they are Muslims.
Asked whether he thinks Myanmar deserves sanctions by the US, he said their Congress and administration may discuss it after assessing the information they gathered about the matter.
The US envoy said the Myanmar should release the journalists they arrested, and ensure press freedom so that media persons can travel in the country and collect information about the incident.
In responding to a question on the return of Rohingyas to Myanmar as per the deal signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar, US Ambassador here Marcia Bernicat said the repatriation of Rohingyas must take place under safe, dignified and voluntary conditions. “The voluntariness has to be well informed.”
“We need to ask whether the condition is conducive for the return of Rohingyas,” she observed.
Bernicat also questioned whether the Rohingyas will remain safe in Myanmar after their repatriation when still 200 people crossing Myanmar border every week after being repressed and deprived of rights and food. “It suggests the conditions are still not right.”
She urged the Myanmar authorities to allow humanitarian organisations and media into the Rakhine State so that they can know whether the condition is conducive for the return of Rohingyas. “The US will continue to press for the openness and cooperation so that we can verify and the Rohingyas themselves can verify whether the condition is right for their return.”