US President Barack Obama has said that Myanmar needed to take seriously the issue of how it treats the Rohingya people, if it wanted to be successful in its transition to a democracy.
Obama, speaking to a group of young Asians invited to the White House, said the US was focused on making sure Rohingya, who have been subject to human trafficking or are adrift at sea, are relocated.
Myanmar’s government does not recognise the Rohingya – who make up the majority of the migrants involved in the current crisis – as an ethnic group, arguing instead they are really Bangladeshis. Bangladesh also does not recognise them as citizens.
According to Human Rights Watch, Rohingya – who have lived in Myanmar for generations – are victims of an ongoing ethnic cleansing.
Earlier in the day, Anne Richard, the US assistant secretary of state for population, migration and refugees, said resettling all Rohingya refugees in the US would entice others to leave their homeland.
“The answer to the issue is peace and stability and citizenship for the Rohingyas in Rakhine state, and that is the solution,” she said at the end of a three-day visit to Malaysia.
“At the moment, there is tremendous persecution and oppression of the Rohingyas in Rakhine state. They do not have citizenship and we are concerned about their human rights,” she said.
Since early May, thousands of boat people from Myanmar have been brought ashore from Southeast Asian waters. Several thousand more are believed to still be at sea after human smugglers abandoned their boats amid a regional crackdown.
Malaysia and Indonesia, which initially pushed away boats carrying the migrants, recently said they would give temporary shelter to the boat people on condition that they are resettled within a year.