The violent crackdown on Myanmar’s predominantly Muslim Rohingya population amounts to genocide, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, a statement intended to both generate international pressure and lay the groundwork for possible legal action. .
Authorities made the decision based on confirmed accounts ofin a widespread and systematic campaign against the ethnic minority, Blinken announced in a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC on Monday. Blinken said the evidence showed “the attack on the Rohingya was widespread and systematic, which is crucial in reaching a determination of crimes against humanity.”
“The day will come when those responsible for these appalling acts will be held accountable,” Blinken said.
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 who opposes the ruling junta. 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.
This is the eighth time since the Holocaust that the United States has concluded that genocide took place.
“This is a decision I made based on review of a factual assessment and legal analysis prepared by the Department of State, which included detailed documentation by a series of independent and unbiased sources. , including human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as our own rigorous fact-finding,” Blinken said.
The Secretary of State announced that the United States would provide $1 million in new funding to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which continues to investigate atrocity reports.
Following Blinken’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the designation “emphasizes, especially to victims and survivors, that the United States recognizes the gravity of these crimes.” .
“Our view is that bringing to light the crimes of the Myanmar military will increase international pressure and make it harder for them to commit further abuses,” she said.
Blinken noted the importance of drawing attention to the inhumanity even as horrific attacks occur elsewhere in the world,and made the crisis in Ukraine a central part of his speech.
“As we meet, the Russian government continues to wage its brutal, unprovoked war against Ukraine,” Blinken said. “Each day brings more heartbreaking attacks, more innocent men, women and children killed. This includes the five people who were killed in a strike on March 1, on a television tower and its surroundings. on the outskirts of kyiv, the same site where, just over 80 years ago, 33,771 Jews were killed by the Nazis in just two days.”
Blinken also pointed to atrocities committed elsewhere, including in Xinjiang where the Chinese government.
–Camilla Shick of CBS News contributed to this report