US Says Myanmar Army Committed Genocide in Rohingya Attacks

The violent crackdown on the predominantly Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar amounts to genocide, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, a statement intended to both generate international pressure and lay the groundwork for possible action in justice.

Authorities made the decision based on confirmed accounts of mass atrocities against civilians by the Burmese military as part of a widespread and systematic campaign against the ethnic minority, Blinken said in a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial. Museum.

This is the eighth time since the Holocaust that the United States has concluded that genocide took place. The Secretary of State stressed the importance of drawing attention to the inhumanity even as horrific attacks occur elsewhere in the world, including in Ukraine.

“Yes, we stand with the Ukrainian people,” he said. “And we must also support people who suffer atrocities elsewhere.”

The government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has already been under several layers of US sanctions since a military coup toppled the democratically elected government in February 2021. Thousands of civilians across the country have been killed and imprisoned as part of the continued crackdown on anyone opposed. to the ruling junta.

The determination that genocide has taken place could lead other nations to increase pressure on the government, which is already facing genocide charges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“As we lay the groundwork for future accountability, we are also working to end ongoing atrocities by the military and support the people of Burma in their efforts to put the country back on the path to democracy,” Blinken said. .

The Rohingya, originally from the Muslim Rakhine State in western Myanmar, have been systematically persecuted by the Buddhist majority for decades under the military junta that ruled the nation for decades as well as under the democratically elected government.

Rohingya refugees line up for aid in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on September 26, 2017. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when the military launched an operation to drive them out of the country following attacks by a rebel group. Earlier this month, a boat containing more than 100 Rohingya refugees came ashore in Indonesia.

Statement ‘long overdue’: Democratic senator

The Rohingya plight status had been the subject of intense scrutiny by US government legal experts since the Trump administration, given the potential legal ramifications of such a finding. The delay in the determination had drawn criticism both inside and outside the government.

“While this determination is long overdue, it is nevertheless a powerful and critically important step in holding this brutal regime to account,” said Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.

Human rights groups also welcomed the decision, which is similar to findings already made by other countries, including Canada, France and Turkey.

WATCH | Bob Rae testifies before a parliamentary committee in 2018 after trips to Cox’s Bazar:

Rae gets emotional as he describes the plight of the Rohingya

Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae breaks down as he describes his encounters with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh before the Senate Human Rights Committee 4:40

Bob Rae, then special envoy to Myanmar, recommended in a 2018 report that Canada increase its humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya and that the federal government work with international partners to launch an investigation into crimes against humanity and genocide in Myanmar. Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch said the United States and other governments should seek justice for crimes committed by the military and impose tougher sanctions against its leaders.

“The US government should match its condemnations of the Myanmar military with action,” said John Sifton, the group’s Asia advocacy director. “For too long, the United States and other countries have allowed Myanmar generals to commit atrocities with little real consequence.”

A 2018 US State Department report documented examples of villages being razed by Myanmar’s military and rapes, torture and killings of civilians since at least 2016. Blinken said evidence showed the violence n was not isolated, but was part of a systematic program that amounts to crimes. against humanity.

“The evidence also points to a clear intent behind these mass atrocities, the intent to destroy the Rohingya, in whole or in part, through murder, rape and torture,” he said.

Previous US genocide determinations include campaigns against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in China as well as Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and Darfur.

Rights group questions Meta’s progress on Rohingya hate speech

Facebook has been criticized for failing to prevent hate speech and calls for violence against Rohingyas in Myanmar.

A report shared exclusively with The Associated Press showed rights group Global Witness had submitted eight paid ads for Facebook’s approval, each featuring different versions of anti-Rohingya hate speech. All eight ads have been approved by Facebook for publication.

The adverts were not published, but the results confirmed that despite promises to do better, Facebook is not effectively preventing hate speech on its platforms, Global Witness said on Monday.

Experts say such ads continued to appear even though they played a role in acts of genocide against the Rohingya.

“The current massacre of the Kalar is not enough, we must kill more!” read a proposal for a paid publication from Global Witness, using an insult often used in Myanmar to refer to people of Indian or Muslim origin.

The company now called Meta declined to say how many of its content moderators read Burmese and can thus detect hate speech in Myanmar.

“I accept that eight is not a huge number. But I think the findings are really striking, that all eight ads have been accepted for publication,” said Global Witness campaigner Rosie Sharpe. “I think you can conclude that the overwhelming majority of hate speech is likely to pass.”

In a unique legal move in late 2021, a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States by Rohingya refugees against Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for US$150 billion following allegations that the social media reportedly failed to take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech who contributed to the violence.