Vice President Mike Pence spoke out, in the strongest terms to date, of any senior U.S. official on the Rohingya crisis, condemning what he termed a “historic exodus” of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the face of violent attacks.
Speaking at a United Nations peacekeeping meeting Wednesday, Pence said the world is witnessing a "great tragedy unfolding" in the Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma.
“Recently, Burmese security forces responded to militant attacks on government outposts with terrible savagery, burning villages, driving the Rohingyas from their homes," Pence said at the high-level Security Council meeting. "The images of the violence and its victims have shocked the American people, and decent people all over the world.”
Over the course of the past month, more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar, where they face human rights violations and discrimination. Pence noted that tens of thousands of those who have fled on foot are children.
Rohingya militants attacked Burmese security forces in late August. Since then, analysts and rights workers say the Burmese military has carried out a brutal crackdown that has burned entire villages, and killed fleeing women and children.
Pence noted that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on the Rohingya refugees Tuesday and urged the Burmese military and security forces to facilitate humanitarian aid.
“While we welcome [Aung San] Suu Kyi’s comments that returning refugees have nothing to fear, the United States renews our call on Burma’s security forces to end their violence immediately and support diplomatic efforts for a long term solution," Pence noted.
US aid to Rohingya
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday announced the United States is set to contribute $32 million worth of humanitarian aid to help the Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar.
The U.S. aid package — the first major response from the Trump administration to the situation — will include food, medical supplies, water and emergency shelter, along with other support.
Aung San Suu Kyi has condemned the human rights violations taking place in her country's western Rakhine state, but she has come under strong international criticism for not speaking out more forcefully on the situation. She canceled her appearance at the United Nations General Assembly this week, in part, to address the ongoing crisis at home.
In a nationally televised speech in her country Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi noted her country does not fear international scrutiny, and she offered her assurance that any human rights violations or “acts that impair stability and harmony” will be dealt with “in accordance with strict norms of justice.”
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate insisted, however, that all “allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during a Tuesday speech before the General Assembly, said he was “shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions” in Myanmar, and he called on authorities to “end the military operations” in Rakhine.
The State Department said the $32 million, which brings the total amount of U.S. aid provided to Myanmar refugees in the 2017 fiscal year to $95 million, will make up about a quarter of what human rights groups say will be needed to address the crisis. The remaining money is expected to be provided by other countries.