A team of US investigators has been on hand with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, conducting interviews and gathering evidence of potential criminal charges against the Burmese government for allegedly committing atrocities against the Rohingya.
The investigation is the latest sign that the US is considering doing more, including possible new sanctions, to punish Myanmar after more than 700,000 Rohingya were expelled from their homes to neighboring Bangladesh, causing the US " call ethnic cleansing ".
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has rejected the allegations, claiming it would fight an Islamist terrorist threat. But its military crackdown in the northern Rakhine state has targeted the Rohingya, an ethnic minority largely Muslim, in an apparent attempt to force them out of their homes and eliminate their presence in the country, according to the United States and the United States United Nations and human rights groups.
Reuters was the first to report on the work of the US team, and a US State Department spokesman confirmed the details for ABC News.
So far, a team of 20 US State Department officials has interviewed more than 1
The most important thing is to document the crimes they have experienced or have even fallen victim to, including rape, murder, beatings and arson even refugees on to describe the weapons and battalions of the Burmese military. Some called individual military officers, a person involved in the investigation told Reuters.
Burmese military has been accused of using these violent tactics to evict Rohingya and then burn their homes on the ground and demolish their villages. A recent report by Amnesty International analyzes satellite imagery in which even villages are being cleared, rendering the landscape "virtually unrecognizable" in some areas.
Access to Rakhine State was extremely limited for US officials and others. Refugee interviews are one of their only alternatives, while even an independent international investigation of Myanmar has been blocked.
If sufficient evidence is gathered, this could be used to sue Burmese officials before the International Criminal Court – or at least to provide grounds for new sanctions.
The State Department spokesman declined to "be ahead of the deliberative process of policymaking," ABC News added, "We look at a wide range of tools to achieve our political goals."
But the Trump government is considering more Magnitsky sanctions on Burmese military, two sources from Congress said.
It is unclear when they might come, but the US is worried about Myanmar, whose power split between military and civilians. The country had been ruled by a military junta since 1988, but after international pressure and isolation, the military allowed some reforms and a gradual opening of the country with the first credible elections in 2016.
However, this balance of power is still fragile, and US officials are worried about alienating their civilian allies or causing the military to regain control.
However, in view of what has already been learned, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that after similar remarks by other Western countries and the United Nations that "ethnic cleansing" had occurred.
This term was followed by sanctions against a high-ranking Myanmar general under the Global Magnitsky Act, which gives the White House full powers to investigate human rights violators. Maung Maung Soe had overseen the brutal crackdown on the Rohingya, but when sanctioned he had been transferred to a new role. No one has been sanctioned since.