Nov. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday called for an investigation into the ongoing crisis in Myanmar that's so far resulted in the deaths of scores of Rohingya Muslims.
Tillerson's call followed a meeting with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and military commander Gen. Min Aung Hlaing during a five-hour visit to Naypyidaw. The chief U.S. diplomat urged them to examine "credible reports of widespread atrocities" against the stateless Muslim Rohingya community.
In the last year, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh due to reported violence that includes killings and rapes by government security forces. The United Nations has classified the situation as a humanitarian catastrophe and called for the end of the violence.
Fewer than one-third of the 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar are believed to still be in the south Asian nation.
Wednesday, Tillerson referred to the situation as "horrific" and said they amount to "crimes against humanity," but stopped short of calling the incidents "ethnic cleansing" -- a term used by the United Nations.
Tillerson also said "broad-based economic sanctions" against Myanmar are not presently under consideration -- but individual sanctions are.
"We want to see Myanmar succeed. I have a hard time seeing how [sanctions] helps resolve this crisis. The key test of any democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable and marginalized populations," Tillerson said. "It is the responsibility of the government and the security forces to protect and respect the human rights of all persons within its borders and to hold accountable those who fail to do so."
At the news conference, Suu Kyi thanked Tillerson for having "an open mind" on the issue. She has been criticized for not doing enough to help end the crisis. Members of her government have admitted that they have not yet sent investigators to Bangladesh to examine refugees' accounts of violence.
Although Aung San Suu Kyi leads the country, she is not in control of the military. On Tuesday, Myanmar's army exonerated itself of blame for the crisis with the official results of an internal investigation -- which denied any killing, looting, raping or burning of villages had occurred.
"Once again, Myanmar's military is trying to sweep serious violations against the Rohingya under the carpet," it said.