The Biden administration has formally determined that violence committed against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar’s military amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity.
According to a Reuters report the Secretary of State Antony Blinken will announce the decision on Monday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington which currently features an exhibit on the plight of the Rohingya.
“It comes nearly 14 months after he took office and pledged to conduct a new review of the violence.”
The report said that the 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.
“U.S. officials and an outside law firm gathered evidence in an effort to acknowledge quickly the seriousness of the atrocities, but then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to make a determination,” it said.
It said that the analysis concluded the Myanmar army is committing genocide and Washington believes the formal determination will increase international pressure to hold the junta accountable.
Myanmar’s military has denied committing genocide against the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar, and said it was conducting an operation against “terrorists” in 2017.
A U.N. fact-finding mission concluded in 2018 that the military’s campaign included ‘genocidal acts,’ but Washington referred at the time to the atrocities as ‘ethnic cleansing,’ a term that has no legal definition under international criminal law.
“It’s really signaling to the world and especially to victims and survivors within the Rohingya community and more broadly that the United States recognizes the gravity of what’s happening,” a second senior State Department official said of Blinken’s announcement on Monday.
A genocide determination does not automatically unleash punitive U.S. action.