Rohingya Muslim men, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, carry their mother in a cloth tied to bamboo stick at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Picture: AP Photo/Dar Yasin
Washington — The Trump administration threatened Monday to take punitive actions against Myanmar unless it pulls back from its violent military campaign against Rohingya Muslims, expressing what it called “our gravest concern” over a crisis that has killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The State Department said it has already cut off travel waivers allowing current and former senior military leaders into the country and was considering further actions to impose economic measures against those responsible for atrocities against Myanmar’s ethnic minority. 

The department said that all military units involved in operations against the Rohingya were ineligible for US aid.

“The government of Burma, including its armed forces, must take immediate action to ensure peace and security; implement commitments to ensure humanitarian access to communities in desperate need; facilitate the safe and voluntary return of those who have fled or been displaced in Rakhine state; and address the root causes of systematic discrimination against the Rohingya,” the department said in a statement issued Monday night, using the former name for Myanmar.

The US warning came as the United Nations said the Rohingya Muslims who have fled deadly persecution in Myanmar to Bangladesh would soon exceed 1 million.

That prediction loomed over an emergency donors conference in Geneva to raise money for aid groups struggling to help Bangladesh deal with the crisis.

Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, called the health conditions of the refugee encampments a “time bomb.”

More than 600 000 Rohingya Muslims have battled terror, exhaustion and hunger to reach safety in Bangladesh since Myanmar’s army began a campaign of what the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing in late August.

The number of people crossing the Naf River that divides the two countries has slowed to about 1 000 to 3 000 a day, down from a peak of 12 000 to 18 000 a day earlier in the crisis, said William Lacy Swing, director of the International Organization for Migration, a part of the United Nations.

States had previously committed around $116 million toward the $430 million sought by the United Nations for humanitarian aid over the next six months. Pledges received from governments Monday raised the total to about $340 million, said Mark Lowcock, U.N. humanitarian coordinator.

The New York Times