US officials to recommend Tillerson label Rohingya violence 'ethnic cleansing'

US officials to recommend Tillerson label Rohingya violence 'ethnic cleansing'
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United States officials are expected to recommend that Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden's State Department picks are a diplomatic slam dunk President Trump: To know him is to 'No' him MORE declare Myanmar's actions toward Rohingya Muslims constitute "ethnic cleansing," according to an report by The Associated Press.

That recommendation could come as early as this week. If Tillerson accepts the recommendation, it would increase pressure on the U.S. government to impose new sanctions on Myanmar.

Myanmar's military has been accused of a crackdown on the country's ethnic Rohingya Muslim population in Rakhine State that has prompted about 600,000 people to seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh. 


Already, some members of Congress have called for new penalties against Myanmar. Tillerson has referred to the crackdown as "characterized by many as ethnic cleansing," and United Nations Ambassador Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyThe Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' New administration, House turnover raise prospects for more diversity on K Street MORE has called it "a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority."

The United Nations and other governments have already labeled the matter as "ethnic cleansing." Still, the label falls short of crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide, which are recognized as crimes under international law.

According to The AP, U.S. officials are not yet ready to make a recommendation regarding whether the actions constitute crimes against humanity. 

The U.S. has opened up relations with Myanmar recently as the country appeared to be moving toward a more democratic government. The country had been under military rule for decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate and prominent democratic activist, has served as Myanmar's de facto leader since April 2016, though the military still retains significant power.

The majority of Myanmar's population is Buddhist, but about 1 million Rohingya Muslims live in the country, and the ethnic minority has long faced persecution. The Burmese government revoked their citizenship in 1982.