People from western Burma’s Rakhine State continue to flee ongoing sectarian violence that erupted in May. The United States is following the situation closely and is concerned about the fighting and fate of tens of thousands of displaced persons. We continue to urge all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.
The conflict has engulfed persons of many ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Rakhine Buddhists and Rakhine Muslims and the Rohingya. The rioting and attacks mark some of the worst sectarian unrest in Burma in years.
The Burmese government declared a state of emergency in Rakhine State in an effort to quell the unrest. The violence spread and has affected many communities, including the predominantly Muslim Rohingya. Burma's government does not recognize the Rohingya minority as Burmese citizens, despite their having lived in Burma for generations.
Burmese leaders have taken timely and public action to stem the violence, and a local court has tried and sentenced two men allegedly responsible for the sexual assault that precipitated the violence. We urge the authorities to investigate the attacks that have occurred in Rakhine State and to bring those responsible to justice in a timely manner and in accordance with due process.
The tragedy has been compounded as refugees, mainly Rohingya, flee the fighting and seek shelter in neighboring Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government has closed its borders and is detaining those who attempt to enter its territory.
United Nations representatives have traveled to the area to assess the situation first-hand and promote a peaceful solution. The United States joins the U.N. and others in the international community in urging the government of Bangladesh to open its border to the refugees.
We urge the government of Bangladesh to continue its longstanding policy of not pushing back refugees from Burma, and that having helped so many thousands of people they will allow for temporary safe haven for those fleeing the current violence.