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US declares Myanmar army committed genocide against Rohingya

Designation Could Put Global Pressure On Military-led Government, Which Faces Accusations At International Court Of Justice

Capture rohi
Rohingya refugees queue for aid at Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh in September 2017. The Biden administration plans to declare Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslim population a ‘genocide’. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Washington: The US has declared Myanmar’s mass killing of the Rohingya Muslim population to be a “genocide”.

The secretary of state, Antony Blinken, made the announcement at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“The United States has concluded that genocide has been committed seven times. Today marks the eighth. I have determined that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity,” Blinken said. The US government uses the country’s pre-1989 name, Burma.

In his speech Blinken pointed to multiple parallels between the Myanmar military’s campaign to wipe out the Rohingya and the Holocaust, the slaughter of Rwandan Tutsi and other genocides.

“The attack against Rohingya was widespread and systematic, which was crucial for reaching a determination of crimes against humanity,” Blinken said. “The evidence also points to a clear intent behind these mass atrocities, the intent to destroy Rohingya in whole or in part.”

In making its genocide designation, US investigators talked to more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, after having been displaced by the violence in 2016 or 2017. Blinken said three quarters of those interviewed said that “they personally witnessed members of the military kill someone.

“More than half witnessed acts of sexual violence. One in five witnessed a mass casualty event – that is the killing or injury of more than 100 people in a single incident,” he said.

Read Also: Cambodia, Japan leaders urge Myanmar junta to honor ASEAN peace plan

The designation will not bring substantial new economic measures against Myanmar’s military-led government, as the US has already imposed multiple layers of sanctions since the campaign against the Rohingya began in the country’s western Rakhine state in 2016.

However, Blinken said the US would be contributing nearly $1m in additional funding to the Genocide Convention for Myanmar, established by the UN human rights council in 2018, and would share information to support the Gambia’s case against Myanmar under the Genocide Convention before the UN’s international court of justice in The Hague.

“By formally declaring a genocide took place against the Rohingya the US is firmly acknowledging the scope and horror of the junta’s violence,” Kyaw Win, the executive director of the Burma Human Rights Network, said. He added: “This declaration must be followed by further action. A military that commits genocide and launches a coup to overthrow a democratically elected government has no place in the civilised world.”

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since October 2016, when the Myanmar military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by a rebel group.

Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.