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US constantly adjusting sanctions in response to Burma situation: official

DHAKA — The US government will constantly adjust its sanctions regime to respond properly to the situation in Burma’s Rakhine State, where many thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been displaced, a senior US official said on Saturday.

“We are constantly evaluating the situation,” Simon Henshaw, acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, told reporters at a news briefing in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after visiting a number of camps in Cox’s Bazar accommodating displaced Rohingya people.

“Congress has given us a number of tools we can use,” he said, noting disturbing reports of atrocities in Rakhine State.

“We call for a full investigation of these reports, we call for those who committed [the atrocities] to be held accountable,” he said.

He said he had not seen such a grave situation in the 4 1/2 years he had served in his current position.

“It is incredible that only within two months more than 600,000 refugees have taken shelter in a country.”

A seven-member delegation led by Henshaw visited Burma from 29 October before traveling to Bangladesh on Wednesday. It went to Cox’s Bazar on Thursday.

“During our meetings with Myanmar government officials we told them that it is their responsibility to return a secure and stable situation in Rakhine State. It is also their responsibility to investigate the reports of atrocities.”

The delegation also asked Burma to allow Rohingya people back to their land and to rehabilitate the villages that were burned.

“The delegation called on the Myanmar government to allow access to press and international organisations so they could see the situation on the ground,” he said, noting that members of the delegation were shocked by Rohingya accounts of atrocities, murder and sexual abuse.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the issue has been taken to the highest level of authority in the US government.


“The statements related to the situation in Myanmar have been issued from the White House, not from the State Department.”

She said the delegation would update US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before his visit to Burma on 15 November.

Some 2,500 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh on Friday through two border crossings, a senior security official said on Saturday.

“Those refugees are already being sent to different camps under the supervision of Bangladesh Army,” Major Mohammad Iqbal, deputy commanding officer of the Bangladesh Border Guard of Cox’s Bazar district, told Reuters.


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