U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says violent repression of Myanmar’s larger Muslim Rohingya population is tantamount to genocide.
Authorities in the United States have said in a statement that the decision was made on the basis of “confirmed reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military against civilians in a comprehensive and systematic campaign against ethnic minorities.”
This is the eighth time since the Holocaust that the United States has reached the conclusion of a genocide, the secretary of state said, referring to the importance of focusing on inhumane conditions during horrific attacks elsewhere in the world, including Ukraine.
“Yes, we stand by the people of Ukraine,” he said. “And we must stand by the people who are being victimized elsewhere.”
The Myanmar government, also known as Burma, has already been under multiple levels of US sanctions since a military coup overthrew a democratically elected government in February 2021. Thousands of civilians have been killed and imprisoned across the country as part of the ongoing crackdown. Persecution against anyone who opposes the ruling junta.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim Buddhists fled Myanmar to a refugee camp in Bangladesh in August 2017, when the Myanmar army launched a clearance operation in response to an attack by a rebel group.
Myanmar’s security forces have been accused of gang-rape, murder and the burning of thousands of homes.
State Department experts have documented examples of Myanmar’s army demolishing villages and raping, torturing and massacring civilians since at least 2016.
The determination to commit genocide could put additional international pressure on the government, which is already facing genocide charges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
“As we lay the groundwork for future accountability, we are also working to end the ongoing military brutality, and to support the people of Burma as they work to bring the country back to democracy,” Blinken said.
Human rights groups and lawmakers have been pushing for both the Trump and Biden administrations to accept the title, and they have welcomed the announcement.
“The US commitment to commit genocide against us is an important moment and we must take strong action to hold the Burmese military accountable for their crimes,” said Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK.
Previous US genocide resolutions include campaigns against Uighurs and other large Muslim minorities in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and Darfur, as well as China.