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The decision comes after years of urging by human rights groups, U.S. lawmakers and others.
“ Nearly five years after they were raped, beaten, murdered and forced to flee their burning villages, the United States has officially declared that the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar were victims of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The announcement, delivered Monday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, may help the Rohingya build an international legal case against Myanmar’s military. It comes after years of demands by the Rohingya as well as human rights activists, scholars and lawmakers that the U.S. executive branch recognize the severity of the 2017 atrocities. It further comes as Myanmar, also known as Burma, is in an ongoing crisis spurred by a military coup in February 2021.”
Blinken unveiled the determination at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, one of the entities that had long urged the State Department to make the call. He specifically blamed the military, not Myanmar’s now-ousted civilian government, for the abuses. And he laid out example after example of the atrocities the Rohingya faced in the crackdown that began in August 2017, from children being stomped upon by soldiers to some of the troops revealing that they were told to shoot Rohingya on sight.
He said the evidence was abundant that the Myanmar military intended to destroy the Rohingya “in whole or in part,” meeting one element of the definition of genocide.
“It’s critically important to reach the determination of genocide, but at the same time, we must remember that behind each of these numbers are countless individual acts of cruelty, and inhumanity,” Blinken said. “The day will come when those responsible for these appalling acts will have to answer for them.”
Human rights advocates and former U.S. officials offered back-handed praise for Blinken’s decision.
“This determination is long overdue,” said Kelley Currie, a long-time Myanmar specialist who served as ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues during the Trump administration. “It should have been made years ago, and any political or policy justification for not doing it vanished with the military’s coup.“