A United States Senate delegation to Myanmar said Tuesday that the crisis in the Rakhine state "has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing."
"Many refugees have suffered direct attacks including loved ones, children and husbands being killed in front of them, wives and daughters being raped, burns and other horrific injuries. This has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing," Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, told a press conference at the U.S. embassy in Yangon.
Merkley told reporters that the U.S. Congressional delegation has urged Myanmar’s government to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission, and to allow the UN and other NGOs access to the troubled region to provide humanitarian assistance.
Tillerson has concerns
In Washington, the U.S. State Department is considering whether to officially designate the conflict as ethnic cleansing.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Myanmar last week and expressed concern over "credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by security forces and vigilantes."
Pope set to visit
The Pope is slated to visit Myanmar from Nov. 27-30, where he is expected to meet with the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Merkley is joined on the delegation by four Democrats: U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and David Cicilline of Rhode Island. The Senators and Representatives met with government officials and affected populations in the region, and highlighted the ongoing humanitarian crisis and urgent need for international action to bring an end to the violence.
VOA Burmese and Thet Su Naing contributed to this report