The top U.S. diplomat for Southeast Asia said America remains deeply troubled by the ongoing crisis and allegations of human rights abuses in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled government security operations in recent weeks.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, speaking Friday in a conference call from Bangkok, said while the U.S. condemns August attacks by Muslim Rohingya militants, the response from Myanmar’s security forces has been “disproportionate.” He called on security forces to end the violence in Rakhine, stop vigilantism there, protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian assistance in the area.
An estimated 429,000 Rohingya refugees have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in less than a month, with most ending up in camps in the Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar, which already had hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who had fled prior rounds of violence in Myanmar.
“The situation in the camps is so incredibly fragile, especially with regard to shelter, food and water, and sanitation, that one small event could lead to an outbreak that may be the tipping point between a crisis and a catastrophe,” Robert Onus, emergency coordinator for the medical relief agency Medecins San Frontieres, said Thursday.
“Hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in an extremely precarious situation, and all the preconditions for a public health disaster are there,” Onus said in a statement, calling for a “massive step-up of humanitarian aid.”
Another danger was highlighted by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, which condemned Myanmar’s use of anti-personnel mines along its border with Bangladesh.
“According to eyewitness accounts, photographic evidence, and multiple reports, antipersonnel mines have been laid between Myanmar’s two major land crossings with Bangladesh, resulting in casualties among Rohingya refugees fleeing government attacks on their homes,” the group said.
It demanded that Myanmar immediately cease using such weapons and accede to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, to which 162 other nations are parties.
The latest violence began when a Rohingya insurgent group launched deadly attacks on security posts Aug. 25,…