The Biden administration intends to declare Myanmar’s year-long crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim population a “genocide,” U.S. officials said on Sunday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to make the long-awaited identification Monday at an event at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The officials requested anonymity because the move had not been publicly announced.
The designation does not herald drastic new measures against Myanmar’s military-led government. Myanmar’s government has come under multiple layers of U.S. sanctions since operations against the Rohingya minority began in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in 2017.
But it could put additional international pressure on Myanmar’s government, which is already facing genocide charges at ICJ. As a result, human rights groups and lawmakers have been pressuring the Trump and Biden administrations to make the determination.
At least one member of Congress, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Refugee International, welcomed the expected step.
“I applaud the Biden administration,” Merkley said after the State Department announced that Blinken would speak about Myanmar at the Holocaust Museum on Monday and tour an exhibit called “Myanmar’s Road to Genocide.” Finally, acknowledge the atrocities committed against the Rohingya as genocide.”
“While this decision is long overdue, it remains a powerful and vital step in holding this brutal regime accountable,” Merkley said. “These processes must always be carried out objectively, consistently, and in a way that goes beyond Geopolitical considerations.”
The humanitarian organization Refugee International also praised the move. “The United States’ declaration of genocide is a welcome and far-reaching step,” the group said. “It is also a strong signal that all who still face abuses by the military government to this day are committed to justice. “
Merkley called on the government to continue pressuring Myanmar to impose more sanctions on the Myanmar government, including its oil and gas sector. “America must lead the world in making it clear that atrocities like this are never buried unnoticed, no matter where they occur,” he said.
Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have escaped from the Buddhist-larger part of Myanmar to displaced person camps in Bangladesh since August 2017. The Myanmar military launched a clearing operation in response to an attack by a rebel group. In addition, Myanmar Police and Military forces have been accused of mass rape, killing, and burning thousands of homes.