President Donald Trump has sent a letter to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, assuring her that the United States will support the country with its refugee crisis, while continuing to “pressure Myanmar” to safely repatriate the nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing military crackdowns, Reuters reported Friday.
President Trump has made the offer several times in the past, but so far, but nothing has changed.
In September, for instance, Trump urged “strong and swift action” against Myanmar by the U.N. Security Council. In November, when he was on his tour of five Asian countries, he vowed, “The United States supports efforts to end the violence, to ensure accountability for atrocities committed, and to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of refugees. We welcome the commitments by the government of Myanmar, and we are ready to support the implementation of the [Rakhine] recommendations.”
Rakhine state in Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country of around 53 million people, was previously home to roughly 1.1. million Rohingya, however, the government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as citizens. After insurgents launched deadly attacks on several police posts in August, the government responded with what rights groups and the United Nations have described as “crimes against humanity” and disproportionate force.
The scores of Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh have prompted humanitarian groups to call their plight the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world right now.
Witnesses have described military raids of villages, during which unarmed residents, including children, are killed, women and girls are gang-raped and homes are burned down. Indeed, satellite images have documented the razing of hundreds of villages, the land reclaimed by the government for “redevelopment” purposes under local law.
Thousands of people have been killed.
While the United States has pulled some military support from Myanmar and donated to money to help the Rohingya in Bangladesh (though not enough — the U.N. has requested $951 million from member states for Rohingya relief), it has yet to pressure Myanmar in any meaningful way, which would involve going after Russia and China in the U.N. Security Council.
When it comes to Iran and North Korea, the Trump administration does not flinch in threatening to re-impose sanctions on those countries, adding new ones or slapping secondary sanctions against any country — including China and Russia — that does not comply with those sanctions.
In Myanmar, where the U.S. president could restore sanctions by executive order, such a move would be complicated, but doable. Still, Trump has yet to take things that far. The European Union, by contrast, is attempting to implement an arms embargo there.
After the United Nations declared the operation against the Rohingya “ethnic cleansing” last September, it inexplicably took the State Department more than two months to say the same. “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,” then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally stated in November.
The Trump administration has also made no moves to grant even temporary visas to Rohingya, who are currently living through flood season in over-crowded camps in Bangladesh, which, while currently experiencing a boom (due largely to the improvement in women’s rights there), still experience high levels of poverty.
Myanmar is not included in the president’s travel ban, which targets several Muslim-majority nations.