The U.S. previously described the Myanmar military’s campaign against the Rohingya as “ethnic cleansing” and imposed sanctions on top generals.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday formally declared that Myanmar’s military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the country’s Rohingya minority.
“Beyond the Holocaust, the United States has concluded that genocide was committed seven times,” said Blinken during remarks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where he spoke about Myanmar, also known as Burma, after he toured an exhibition called “Burma’s Path to Genocide.”
“Today marks the eighth, as I have determined that members of the Burmese military, committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya.
Since August 2017, more than 700,000 members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya group have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh, where they live in crowded refugee camps. The refugees have accused Myanmar security forces of killings, mass rape and arson to drive them out. The military denies the allegations.
“Since seizing power, the military has killed more than 1,600 men, women, and children, and unjustly detained 12,000 more in abysmal conditions. Many of those detained have been subjected to torture and sexual violence,” Blinken said.
The U.S. government has repeatedly described the Myanmar military’s campaign against the Rohingya as “ethnic cleansing,” and in 2019 the U.S. sanctioned four Myanmar military leaders, including the commander-in-chief.
U.S. law does not require any specific action after the government declares a genocide, but the designation could increase international pressure on the Myanmar military, which seized power in a coup last year.