WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States (US) officially declared on Monday that violence against the Rohingya committed by Myanmar’s military amounted to genocide, saying there was clear evidence of an attempt to “destroy” the minority group.
Citing the killings of thousands and forcing close to a million to flee the country in 2016 and 2017, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had “determined that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya”.
“The military’s intent went beyond ethnic cleansing to the actual destruction of Rohingya,” Blinken said at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“The attack against Rohingya was widespread and systematic, which is crucial for reaching a determination of crimes against humanity.”
The US move did not come with new direct repercussions against the already heavily sanctioned Myanmar regime and dozens of members of its leadership.
But Blinken said it will support international efforts, including in the International Court of Justice, to bring cases of crimes against humanity against the regime.
Blinken noted 2017 remarks by Myanmar military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, that the government was “solving” an “unfinished job” in its destruction of Rohingya communities.
Blinken added that Min Aung Hlaing led the 2021 coup overthrowing the elected government of Myanmar.
“The brutal violence unleashed by the military since February 2021 has made clear that no one in Burma will be safe from atrocities so long as it is in power,” Blinken said, using the former official name of the country. “Anyone in Burma seen as challenging the military’s grip on power – regardless of ethnicity or religion, age or political party – will be targetted,” he said.
Around 850,000 Rohingya are languishing in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, recounting mass killings and rape of the campaign that was launched against them five years ago.
Another 600,000 members of the community remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where they report widespread oppression.