Murphy summoned Myanmar's ambassador to the US, Aung Lynn, Wednesday to express US concerns about the violence, including recent attacks on Rohingya villages, according to a senior State Department official, who called the message sent by the move "a tough one."
Murphy told the ambassador that Myanmar should publicly acknowledge that Rohingya groups in particular have fled across the border into Bangladesh, the official said, and that those refugees should now be allowed to return home.
Murphy also emphasized the need for easier access for aid groups trying to reach Rakhine state, where journalists and human rights advocates have also been kept out. He wants the government of Myanmar to implement, with concrete action, recommendations made by an independent advisory commission led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, including speeding up the citizen verification process to ensure that human rights are recognized for all groups.
An estimated 380,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh to escape the violence, according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
The Trump administration has previously noted its concern
about the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state, but has so far avoided levying any direct criticism against the country's civilian government or its de facto leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Instead, the State Department has called for a de-escalation of tensions between security forces and Rohingya militias, and urged Myanmar's government to expand access to humanitarian aid groups and journalists.
State Department officials, speaking on background, tell CNN the situation there is so strained, with the military acting in some ways autonomously from the central government, that there are serious worries that strong criticism of the leadership would be seen as undermining the fragile democracy, could contribute to unrest in the form of mass rioting-- and could end up with the military taking over.
They said it's a very delicate course to navigate at this point.
There have been reports of violent attacks on Rohingya by the Myanmar military, as well as rape, murder and arson, according to Human Rights Watch and other groups.
The administration has also thanked the government of neighboring Bangladesh for hosting the refugees.
US ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted that message Wednesday, writing, "We thank Bangladesh for hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing violence, with nowhere to go. #CrisisInBurma"The tweet came shortly after UN Secretary General António Guterres gave a press conference in New York, calling the humanitarian situation "catastrophic
" and urging Myanmar's security forces to suspend their actions.
On Monday, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein described the attacks against the Rohingya as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
The current crisis, which was initially triggered by an attack on security forces, is now in its third week.