US declares crackdown on Rohingya ‘genocide’
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration intends to declare that Myanmar’s years-long crackdown on Rohingya Muslims is a “genocide,” US officials said Sunday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to make the long-awaited designation Monday at an event at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move has yet to be made public. .
The designation does not and in itself represent drastic new measures against Myanmar’s military-led government, which has been subject to layers of US sanctions since its campaign against the ethnic minorities. The Rohingya population began in the western state of Rakhine in 2017.
But it could lead to additional international pressure on the government, which is facing genocide charges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Human rights groups and lawmakers have pressed both the Trump and Biden administrations to make the designation.
At least one member of Congress, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, welcomed the anticipated move, as did Refugees International.
“I applaud the Biden administration for finally recognizing the atrocities against the Rohingya people as genocide,” he said in a statement released shortly after the State Department announced that Blinken would issue new comment on Myanmar at the Holocaust Museum on Monday and tour an exhibit called “Burmese’s Path to Genocide.” Myanmar is also known as Burma.
“While this resolution is long overdue, it remains a powerful and critically important step in tackling this brutal regime,” Merkley said. “Such processes should always be carried out objectively, consistently, and in a way that transcends geopolitical considerations.”
Humanitarian group Refugees International also praised the move. “The United States’ declaration of genocide is a welcome and deeply meaningful step,” the group said in a statement. “It’s also a solid sign of commitment to justice for all those who continue to face military abuse to this day.”
Merkley called on the administration to continue its pressure campaign on Myanmar by imposing additional sanctions on the government including its oil and gas sectors. “America must lead the world in making it clear that atrocities like this should never be allowed to go undetected, no matter where they occur,” he said.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by a rebel group. army. Myanmar’s security forces have been accused of rape, mass murder and the burning of thousands of homes.