According to an official who spoke to AFP on Sunday, the US has found that Myanmar’s military’s atrocities against the Rohingya minority amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.
Hundreds of thousands of mainly Muslim Rohingya people have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar since 2017, following a military campaign that is now the subject of a genocide prosecution at the UN’s top court in The Hague.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to make the official announcement of the decision to define the crackdown as genocide in comments at the Holocaust Museum in Washington on Monday, where an exhibit on “Burma’s Path to Genocide” — using a former name for the nation — is on display.
During a visit to Malaysia in December last year, Blinken stated that the US was “very actively” investigating whether the Rohingya’s treatment constituted “genocide.”
In 2018, the State Department issued a report that described violence against Rohingya in western Rakhine state as “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents.”
Around 850,000 Rohingya are stranded in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, recalling brutal massacres and rapes, while another 600,000 are still in Rakhine, where they allege ongoing persecution.
According to the New York Times, a legal designation of genocide, defined by the UN as acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group,” could be followed by additional sanctions and aid restrictions, among other penalties against the already isolated military junta.
The US imposed a series of sanctions on the country’s authorities and, like other Western countries, has long banned arms to its armed forces, which faced claims of crimes against mankind even before the junta gained control for the savage campaign against the Rohingya.
The Gambia’s case against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice in 2019 has been complicated by last year’s coup, which overthrew civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her administration, sparking huge protests and a deadly crackdown.
The Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who was chastised by rights organizations for her role in the Rohingya crisis, is now under house arrest and facing trial by the same generals she backed in The Hague.
President Barack Obama’s administration had invested significant political capital in Myanmar’s transition to a budding democracy, providing both financial and diplomatic assistance. However, the US expressed its dissatisfaction with the continued bloodshed between Myanmar’s army and ethnic insurgents, as well as religious violence and discriminatory laws that mainly affect the Rohingya.