The U.S. government is conducting an intensive investigation into allegations of heinous crimes against Rohingya Muslims in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar.
According to a Reuters report, two U.S. officials said more than 1,000 Rohingya men and women in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh have been interviewed, detailing allegations of killings, rape, beatings and other possible crimes against humanity by Myanmar’s military.
About 20 investigators with expertise in areas of international law and criminal justice conducted the interviews in March and April.
When asked to confirm details of the investigation, a State Department official told VOA “the program details are accurate.”
“We strongly believe that Burma’s [Myanmar’s] government and security forces must respect the human rights of all persons within its borders, and hold accountable those who fail to do so,” he added.
Reuters says the findings will be reviewed and included in a report that will be sent to the State Department’s leadership in May or early June, the officials said. It is not known if the Trump administration will publicly disclose the results or whether it will use the information to push for sanctions against the Myanmar government or a recommendation for international prosecution.
Almost 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar government’s crackdown last year in its northwestern Rakhine State. The Myanmar government has said its Rakhine operations were lawful responses to attacks on security forces by Rohingya rebels.
The Rohingya are a small Muslim minority in Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist country. Although the Rohingya have been in Myanmar for generations, much of the country’s population considers them intruders.
Violence against the Rohingya has escalated in recent years as the country has made a partial transition to democratic governance.
Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson followed the U.N. in November by declaring the Myanmar government’s actions constituted “ethnic cleansing.” Both declarations have increased the prospects of more sanctions against the government’s military commanders and increased pressure civilian leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Myanmar government has denied the the allegations.
State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report