The United States formally determined that Myanmar’s army committed genocide and crimes against humanity in its violence against the Rohingya minority, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, warning that as long as the junta was in power nobody in the country would be safe.
Announcing the decision, which was first reported by Reuters on Sunday, Blinken said the attacks against Rohingya were “widespread and systematic” and that evidence pointed to a clear intent to destroy the mainly Muslim minority.
A clear statement by the United States saying genocide was committed could bolster efforts to hold the Myanmar generals accountable and help prevent further atrocities, activists and US officials believe.
In his speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the top American diplomat read out tragic and chilling accounts of victims, who had been shot in the head, raped and tortured.
Myanmar’s armed forces launched a military operation in 2017 that forced at least 730,000 of the mainly Muslim Rohingya from their homes and into neighboring Bangladesh, where they recounted killings, mass rape and arson. In 2021, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup.
“Since the coup, we have seen the Burmese military use many of the same tactics. Only now the military is targeting anyone in Burma it sees as opposing or undermining its repressive rule,” Blinken said.
“For those who did not realise it before the coup, the brutal violence unleashed by the military since February 2021 has made clear that no one in Burma will be safe from atrocities so long as it is in power,” he added.
Days after US President Joe Biden took office, Myanmar generals led by Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power on Feb 1, 2021, after complaining of fraud in a November 2020 general election won by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. Election monitoring groups found no evidence of mass fraud.