Trump Urges Help for Myanmar's Rohingya Amid Violent Crackdown

  • Envoy Haley cites Trump’s concern after criticism of U.S.
  • Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to Bangladesh

Here’s What’s Causing the Turmoil in Myanmar

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked his national security advisers to find ways to help end violence that’s driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh, according to United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“The president is very concerned about Burma,” Haley told reporters in New York on Thursday, using Myanmar’s former name. “Everybody is trying to figure out who can move the officials in Burma. You have almost half a million people who have left, and the tragedies and the abuse that’s happened there is something not a lot of us can stomach.”

More than 400,000 Rohingya from the Buddhist-majority nation have fled over the border to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police and army posts, killing a dozen security officials in Myanmar’s eastern state of Rakhine. The military responded to those assaults with what it called “clearance operations.”

A Rohingya refugee shelters from the sun under an umbrella while lookingon at the refugee camp of Balukhali, near the locality of Ukhia on September 21, 2017. Bangladesh's army was ordered on September 20 to take a bigger role helping hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled violence in Myanmar, amid warnings it could take six months to register the new refugees. Troops would be deployed immediately in Cox's Bazar near the border where more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims have arrived since August 25, said Obaidul Quader, a senior minister and deputy head of the ruling Awami League party. / AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A Rohingya refugee shelters from the sun at the refugee camp of Balukhali, near the locality of Ukhia.
Photographer: DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Human-rights groups have accused security forces and Buddhist vigilantes of indiscriminately attacking Muslims and burning their villages, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the violence as “ethnic cleansing.” Some groups have criticized the Trump administration for not speaking out forcefully against the violence.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has contacted Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, to express the president’s concern, Haley said. She said Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has urged the country’s military leaders to end the violence. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence urged members of the UN Security Council to take “strong and swift” action.

Read more: An explainer on the Rohingya crisis

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who endured years of house arrest by a military junta during her campaign to bring civilian rule to Myanmar, has come under fire for not speaking out against the violence. She has described some Rohingya, who are considered stateless in Myanmar, as militants.

Still, Suu Kyi, who skipped the gathering of world leaders in New York for the UN General Assembly, said in a televised address this week that “we condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence” and that her government was ready to welcome back Rohingya refugees.

Haley spoke at a news conference called by the Trump administration to boast of U.S. accomplishments at the UN sessions. It reflected the increasingly visible role being played by the former South Carolina governor, feeding speculation she’s outshining the low-key Tillerson as the Trump administration’s face of public diplomacy.

Asked if she’s gunning for Tillerson’s job, Haley said “there’s going to be chatter about things” but “no, I do not” want to be secretary of state.

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