The situation is dire, says Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback
The United States has asked for more action from the international community regarding the Rohingya issue and other areas of concern in Myanmar in the coming days, terming the situation “dire.”
"Former secretary Tillerson had announced that evidence of ethnic cleansing had been found, and I also believe it is ethnic cleansing of a religious minority that is taking place," said Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback.
The US envoy for international religious freedom made the remark at a special briefing on the release of the 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom in Washington on Wednesday.
Recalling his visit to several refugee camps in Bangladesh about a month ago, Ambassador Brownback said, "The situation is dire. We must do more to help them, as they continue to be targeted for their faith."
He said he had asked for access into Myanmar and to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and/or to go into northern Rakhine State where the problems have been most acute, although there are plenty of problems in other places in Myanmar.
"I was denied permission for most of the things I wanted to do. They might have let me in, but they were not allowing me to have the meetings I wanted to have or go to the places I needed to go," he said.
The Ambassador said he does not think there has been any progress in Myanmar.
"If anything, the administration there is doubling its efforts and going after the Kachin people in the northern part of the country, and the number of refugees in the northern part of Burma keeps increasing," Brownback said.
He also said the continuing desperate situation of the Rohingyas will now be compounded with the upcoming rainy season.
Highlighting the plight of the Rohingya people, Ambassador Brownback said it is a terrible situation that requires the world's attention.
"There is a lot of international attention on it, but I think there needs to be more action from the world at large," he said.
Responding to a question, he said, "You continue to see, as I noted, a horrific situation of all the refugees coming out that fortunately has been reported on in Bangladesh, and the international community and the international press have done a great job reporting this."
"Unfortunately," he said, "Now you are seeing forces in Myanmar step up again in the north – especially in the Kachin area – and the number of refugees there has increased in recent weeks as the fighting has increased with another ethnic religious minority being pushed out of the country and their localities.
"This is going to require a lot of focus from the international community. Fortunately, they are focusing, but I think it is going to require action and I think you will see a lot of action coming," the Ambassador added.
Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the International Religious Freedom Report details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and describes US actions and policies in support of religious freedom worldwide.
According to the US Embassy in Dhaka, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in his remarks on the release of the report called religious freedom "a right belonging to every individual on the globe," and assured that the US "stands with those who yearn for religious liberty."
Meanwhile, US Ambassador in Dhaka, Marcia Bernicat, on Wednesday said they will continue to put political pressure on Myanmar to create conditions which will allow Rohingyas to return home to Myanmar.
Talking to reporters after her meeting with Home Minister Asaduzzaman, the ambassador said they are going to continue their material support for Rohingyas and other displaced people in various places.
Bernicat said they have increased their sanctions against the Myanmar government and will continue to urge Myanmar to do the right thing.
She commended Bangladeshis – especially the host community, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and her government – for all the support they have extended to the Rohingyas.