“Horrific case of ethnic cleansing”: Sen. Merkley travels to meet Myanmar refugees

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, is on the ground in Bangladesh this weekend to meet with some of the more than 500,000 refugees who have fled what the United Nations described as a “textbook ethnic cleansing” in their home country of Myanmar.

“You have an assault by the Buddhist majority on the Rohingya Muslim minority,” Merkley said in a satellite interview with KGW before he left for the trip. “It’s included the burning of villages, an enormous amount of violence, rape, gunshot wounds, the slaughter of children, and from that, 600,000 of the Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh.”

The exodus reportedly began in late August, after the Myanmar military began an operation against Rohingya militants who attacked 30 security posts and an army base in Rakhine.

The United Nations has since called the sweeping campaign of violence against the Rohingya population a “human rights nightmare.”

Merkley flew there with other members of Congress to meet with refugees, and possibly military leaders, in Myanmar.

He said a main goal of the trip would be to evaluate a path for the United States to take moving forward.

“It may require pressure and sanctions might be an important part of that,” he said. “We’ve seen very little from President Trump. It would be extraordinarily important for President Trump to be very vocal on this issue. It’s important for the administration to help be the moral compass for the world and help coordinate the response internationally.”

The Senator’s trip comes days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Myanmar and said the U.S. would consider individual sanctions against people responsible for the violence, but added he would not advise broad sweeping sanctions against the country.