CSW welcomes the statement by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 21 March that Myanmar/Burma’s military has committed genocide against the Rohingya.
Mr Blinken called the attacks against Rohingya “widespread and systematic” in his address at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and stated that the Biden administration’s determination of genocide was based on a review of independent research and a US State Department review.
He also announced the US would provide $1 million in new funding for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which continues to examine atrocities. A case against Myanmar was opened at the International Court of Justice in 2019.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also welcomed the genocide determination in a statement, with the Commission’s Chair Nadine Maenza saying: “The Rohingya have been targeted for decades by Burmese authorities—the Tatmadaw in particular. This determination provides recognition to the Rohingya and acknowledges the severity of the atrocities that occurred, which is an important step towards achieving justice.”
Since August 2017, when the Myanmar army attacked Rohingya villages and civilians, resulting in thousands killed, 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh and hundreds of villages burned, there have been reports of ongoing atrocities against the predominantly Muslim Rohingya. These include the burning of homes, schools and mosques, the deliberate burning of people to death inside their homes, mass rape, torture, execution without trial, and the blocking of aid.
The UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar has said that the violence against the Rohingya has the “hallmarks” of genocide. A UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission found “a pattern of conduct that infers genocidal intent on the part of the State to destroy the Rohingya, in whole or in part, as a group.” It went on to warn that “The State of Myanmar continues to harbour genocidal intent and the Rohingya remain under serious risk of genocide.”
Myanmar has continued to deny Rohingyas their citizenship rights, rendering them stateless under the 1982 Citizenship Law even though they have existed in the country for several centuries, and certainly many generations. Under the law, the Rohingya population who continue to live in the country do so without citizenship rights such as the right to vote, to move freely, or to access basic services.
In August 2021, following the launch of a process by the US government earlier in the year to make an official determination, CSW joined 94 other organisations in signing an open letter calling on the Biden administration to publicly acknowledge that the state of Myanmar has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya people.
CSW’s Senior Analyst for East Asia Benedict Rogers said: “CSW welcomes the US government’s decision to name the Myanmar army’s crimes against the Rohingya for what they are: genocide. This is the same military that seized power in the coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021 and has gone on to use brutal force against anti-coup protesters, and to attack other ethnic nationalities across the country. We hope that this public announcement by the US government will send a message to Myanmar’s military that those who committed these grave crimes against the Rohingya will ultimately be held accountable, and that their actions since the coup are being closely scrutinised.”