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US calls Myanmar military Rohingya crackdown 'genocide'

March 21, 2022

Myanmar’s mass killing of the Rohingya Muslim population was designated as “genocide” by Washington. This is expected to boost international pressure on the country's military-led government.

In this October 2017 photo, Rohingya Muslims can be seen fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee Myanmar since 2017Image: KM Asad/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

The United States formally declared Myanmar's military attacks on its Rohingya population as genocide.

The evidence shows "a clear intent behind these mass atrocities, the intent to destroy Rohingya, in whole or in part," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

Speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Blinken said the attacks against Rohingya was "widespread and systematic."

The museum features an exhibit on the plight of the Rohingya in the country — "Burma's Path to Genocide."

The Buddhist-majority country launched a military crackdown against the mostly Muslim Rohingya community in the western Rakhine state in 2017.

About 850,000 of them were forced to flee their homes and into neighboring Bangladesh, where they recounted mass killings, rape, and arson.

Rohingya widow refugees face poverty, hostile attitudes

What does this mean for Myanmar?

A genocide determination does not necessarily mean fresh punitive measures against Myanmar.

The country's military leaders have already been hit by a series of sanctions over the brutal campaign against the Rohingya, even before the junta seized power.

The formal declaration of genocide could be followed by further limits on aid and other penalties.

Washington also believes it will bolster international efforts to hold the junta accountable.

"It's going to make it harder for them to commit further abuses," one senior State Department official was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

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Case at World Court

The declaration could also increase the international pressure on Myanmar's military-led government, which was already facing genocide accusations at the United Nation's highest court in The Hague.

Gambia brought the case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice in 2019.

However, the case has been complicated since the military ousted the country's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and her government in February 2021.

Blinken said the US would hand testimony from victims who had been shot in the head, raped, and tortured to the Gambia to use as further evidence. 

lo,adi/jsi (AFP, AP, Reuters)