A United States museum dedicated to the Holocaust said Monday that “compelling evidence” indicates that Myanmar’s armed forces committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against Rohingya Muslims during crackdowns in 2017 and 2016.
“The Burmese military’s campaign against the Rohingya, especially the attacks of August 2017, have been deliberate, systematic, and widespread,” said Lee Feinstein, a member of the governing council of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, in a statement.
Thousands died during the violence, which included widespread torture, rape, and arson, and drove more than 720,000 Rohingya across the border where they have been living in sprawling refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh.
The government of Myanmar, which the U.S. officially calls Burma, has largely denied that its forces committed the atrocities that United Nations investigators, rights groups, and some nations say amounted to ethnic cleansing, genocidal intent, or genocide itself.
“For the sake of the remnant community of Rohingya still in Burma and those threatened with being returned, we hope this announcement prods action,” said Lee, who also chairs the Committee on Conscience, which advises the genocide prevention work of the museum.
The museum said it reached the conclusion based on a joint analysis in consultation with an advisory group of atrocity experts, its own original research published in a joint report in 2017 with the NGO Fortify Rights, information from a U.S. State Department report documenting the atrocities, and a report by a U.N. fact-finding mission.
The report by U.N. investigators issued in late August detailed violence by Myanmar security forces and called for the prosecution of top military commanders on genocide charges at the International Criminal Court or by another criminal tribunal.
“Our analysis concludes there is compelling evidence that Burmese authorities have intentionally sought to destroy the Rohingya people because of their ethnic and religious identity,” said Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, in the statement.
“The Rohingya victims we work with feel abandoned,” she said. “The world has turned a blind eye to their persecution — just as it did for victims of the Holocaust.”
The museum issued a report in March 2015 cautioning about early warning signs of genocide against the Rohingya based on an on-the-ground investigation by staff from the Simon-Skjodt Center.
In March 2018, it revoked a prestigious human rights award it had given to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who is the country’s civilian leader, citing her refusal to acknowledge and stop the military’s atrocities against the Rohingya.
Another ‘genocide’ report
Separately, the Washington-based Public International Law and Policy Group said Monday that a report it conducted under contract for the U.S. State Department indicates the likelihood that the Myanmar military committed crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes against the minority group.
The report is based on more than 1,000 interviews with Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh during the 2017 crackdown.
A U.S. government resolution sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) says atrocities committed by the Myanmar forces after August 2017 constitute crimes against humanity and genocide and calls for the imposition of additional sanctions on perpetrators, including military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
The resolution also calls for the release of two Reuters reporters serving seven-year sentences in Myanmar for possessing classified government documents while reporting on the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya Muslims during the crackdown.
Human rights groups and media advocates have strongly condemned their convictions as a sham and a blow to press freedom.
The House is expected to pass the resolution as early as next week, Politico reported.
The U.S. has accused Myanmar only of ethnic cleansing.
Vice President Mike Pence took Aung San Suu Kyi to task in mid-November, telling the former human rights icon that the country’s persecution of Rohingya is “without excuse.”
She responded by saying that “people have different points of view, but the point is that you should exchange these views and try to understand each other better.”