U_S_ officials say the Biden administration wants to declare Myanmar’s years-long crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim population a “genocide.”
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken plans to create the long-awaited title at an event at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday, an official said on condition of anonymity, but the move has not yet been made public.
The move does not signal a new move against Myanmar’s military-led government, which has already suffered multiple levels of US sanctions since the crackdown on the Rohingya ethnic minority in the country’s western Rakhine state began in 2017.
But it could lead to additional international pressure on the government, which is already facing genocide charges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Human rights groups and lawmakers are pressuring both the Trump and Biden administrations to create titles.
At least one member of Congress, Oregon Democrat Sen. Jeff Markle, welcomed the expected move, as did Refugee International.
“I applaud the Biden administration for finally recognizing the atrocities against the Rohingya as genocide,” he said in a statement issued shortly after the State Department announced that Blinken would comment on Myanmar at the Holocaust Museum on Monday and visit the exhibition titled “Mass.” Myanmar is also known as Burma.
“While this resolution is long overdue, it is a strong and critically important step in taking into account this brutal regime,” said Merkel. “Such processes should always be done purposefully, consistently and in a way that transcends geopolitical considerations.”
The humanitarian organization Refugees International also praised the move. “The US declaration of genocide is a welcome and deeply meaningful step,” the group said in a statement. “This is a strong sign of a commitment to justice for those who are still being persecuted by the military junta.”
Merkel called on the administration to continue its pressure campaign by imposing additional sanctions on the government to include Myanmar’s oil and gas sector. “America must lead the world to make it clear that such atrocities will never be buried unnoticed, no matter where they occur,” he said.
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.