Political News

Rex Tillerson to visit Myanmar

Posted November 2, 2017 3:27 p.m. EDT

— Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Myanmar later this month to push for an end to the violence that has plagued the country's northern Rakhine state in recent months, the State Department announced Thursday.

He will visit the country's capital, Naypyidaw, where he will meet with "senior leaders and officials on actions to address the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State," the announcement read, and will express US support for the country's recent democratic transition.

The visit will happen on November 15, as Tillerson wraps up a 10-day swing across Asia with President Donald Trump.

Tillerson has been increasingly vocal in condemning attacks on Myanmar's minority Rohingya Muslims.

Speaking at a Washington, DC, think tank earlier this month, he said the US is "extraordinarily concerned" about the situation, urging the country's military leaders to show restraint.

"What's most important to us is that the world can't just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area," Tillerson said.

However, US officials, including Tillerson, have so far been cautious about publicly reprimanding Myanmar's civilian leaders, who share power with the military as a result of fragile democratic reforms championed by the United States during the Obama administration.

The United Nations estimates that more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border into neighboring Bangladesh since late August, when an attack on security forces triggered widespread violence against Rohingya communities.

UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has referred to the plight of the Rohingya as "textbook ethnic cleansing." The US State Department is currently reviewing whether the situation meets the legal definition of ethnic cleansing.

In recent weeks, Tillerson has spoken by phone with Myanmar's de-facto civilian leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.