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03/21/2022 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – In a long-awaited but welcomed move, the Biden Administration has finally declared the attacks by the Myanmar military (the Tatmadaw) in 2017 against the Rohingya ethnic and religious minority a genocide. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made the announcement this morning at the symbolically chosen US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The declaration of genocide comes following years of scrutiny after the Tatmadaw began a violent campaign against the Rohingya people in response to attacks on several military outposts by the region’s ethnic armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). While minor altercations between the Myanmar authorities and the ethnic armed group were fairly common, they were regularly resolved by local authorities. However, in 2017, the Burmese military escalated the conflict through a sweeping anti-terrorism campaign, which they termed a “clearance operation.” The violence quickly got out of control, as the military began targeting civilians, homes, and mosques and committing brutal attacks against the Rohingya people.

While the number of those killed is still up for debate, they are known to be in the thousands, as nearly 3000 were killed in the first few weeks – estimates of the casualties range from as low as 6,700, with others up to 24,000. The conflict has forced over 700,000 Rohingyas out of their home state of Rakhine into Bangladesh and some into Thailand or other parts of Myanmar.

The violence against the Rohingya stems from a long history of discrimination against this ethnic and religious minority. For decades, the Rohingya have been systematically discriminated against, as Myanmar refuses to even recognize the term ‘Rohingya’ and continues to deny their citizenship. This conflict is considered genocide and was determined based on the prior history with the Rohingya and the statements of Myanmar’s leadership and the soldiers conducting it – it was intended as a widespread and systematic attempt to eliminate the Rohingya people. Secretary Blinken highlighted the rhetoric of Myanmar’s military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, who justified his attack on the Rohingya, calling it his way of addressing thefinal problemfor Myanmar. This is the same leader who has led the current crisis in Myanmar.

As the world awaited a response to the atrocities committed against this ethnic and religious minority, a whole new crisis broke out in Myanmar when that same military, under the same leader, removed the democratically elected government and launched another violent campaign to reign in the opposition, largely made up other religious and ethnic minorities, many of whom are Christian.

The declaration against the Myanmar military is a significant step, as US foreign policy has been slow to act around issues in Myanmar as numerous global crises dominate the headlines. However, we must continue to call on our government to hold this regime accountable and stand up for those being persecuted. It is a reminder that violence against one ethnic and religious minority will only lead to more. This is what we are seeing today as the military junta continues its reign of persecution, destroying lives, churches, and hope for a Myanmar-made whole.

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