Mark of Shame

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Myanmar’s military has committed genocide and crimes against humanity in its actions against the Muslim Rohingya minority, the US government said, a declaration that received praise from the community and human rights activists, Reuters reported Monday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the army’s attacks against the Rohingya were “widespread and systematic” and that evidence pointed to a clear intent to destroy the mainly Muslim minority.

He also warned that the military junta – who seized power last year through a coup – has been “targeting anyone in (Myanmar) it sees as opposing or undermining its repressive rule.”

The military has yet to comment on the declaration but members of the Rohingya community and their advocates told Agence France-Presse that the move recognizes “our suffering.”

In 2017, Myanmar’s army launched a military operation against the community in Rakhine State that forced more than 730,000 Rohingyas to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Members of the military have been accused of mass rape, murder and arson.

In 2020, the International Court of Justice ordered the Southeast Asian country to protect the minority from genocide, adding that it needed to abide by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

But the military has denied the accusations, saying that the 2017 crackdown was aimed at fighting “terrorists” in the region, according to Axios.

Following the February 2021 coup, Western nations imposed sanctions against the junta and its business interests but the pressure campaign has failed to urge military leaders to restore civilian rule.

Analysts noted that the US’ announcement could boost judicial efforts to hold military commanders accountable and help prevent future atrocities. While the declaration does not equal punitive measures, it holds considerable political weight, they added.

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