US Designation of Rohingya Genocide Must Spur Action

April 2nd, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  10 minute read
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“The United States has concluded that genocide has been committed seven times. Today marks the eighth. I have determined that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity.”

Blinken, US Secretary of State

As the Myanmar military junta’s head makes violent threats to “annihilate” those who oppose military rule, the United States’ designation of the 2017 violence against the Rohingya as genocide reminds the world of the extreme brutality that this military is capable of. It is also a reminder that the international community must pursue all avenues of justice and accountability, both for the Rohingya who faced genocide in 2017, and the rest of Myanmar’s people, who are suffering since the coup attempt of 1st of February last year.

At an announcement at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., the US Secretary of State, Blinken, said “The United States has concluded that genocide has been committed seven times. Today marks the eighth. I have determined that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity.” This comes after years of documentation and advocacy by local, regional, and international human rights organizations, as well as by the UN-mandated, Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (IIFFMM). While the military junta unsurprisingly rejected the designation, the National Unity Government, the legitimate government of Myanmar, did welcome the designation and pledged to work towards safe return of Rohingya refugees and legislative and policy reforms to support “citizenship, equality and rights and opportunity, and justice and reparations.” Meanwhile a statement by 357 civil society organizations welcoming the designation also drew parallels to the situation after the attempted coup, “The same military that committed genocide against the Rohingya are committing massacres, airstrikes, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary mass arrests, sexual and gender-based violence, violence against children and mass displacement following its attempted coup – an attempt that failed, largely due to courageous and united resistance from the people of Myanmar in defense of their democracy.”

This designation is of course not news to the Rohingya community themselves. As Tun Khin of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK stated, “This designation lets Rohingya know that their voices have been heard amid the cruel suffering they continue to endure.”  A Rohingya refugee in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, told the Guardian, “It has been 60 years starting from 1962 that the Myanmar government has been torturing us and many other communities including Rohingya. I think a path to take action by the international community against Myanmar has opened up because of the declaration.” This is exactly what must happen now.

Now that this designation has been made, the US and other countries in the international community must take concrete steps to pursue justice and accountability for the Rohingya. There remains nearly one million Rohingya who fled this genocide and are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, while those that remain in Rakhine State are subject to apartheid-like conditions, being deprived of basic freedom of movement, of religion, access to healthcare and education, and of course, citizenship.

Thus, there must be renewed momentum to support efforts to refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court through the UN Security Council for the prosecution of military leaders. Furthermore, the case against the State of Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, must be supported, while the UN Human Rights Council must heed Myanmar civil society’s recent calls for the establishment of “a jurisdiction for atrocity crimes.” However, while such kind of justice and criminal accountability cannot be provided for domestically, the Spring Revolution has catalyzed a wave of inter-ethnic solidarity and a reflection of discriminatory attitudes and practices. These must also be acted upon to forge a society that is inclusive of the Rohingya, that acknowledges past mistakes, and begins a process of concrete reparations, both material and symbolic, as part of a broader process of restorative justice. These include recognition of Rohingya as an ethnic group and the restoration of their citizenship.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

The upcoming 5th BIMSTEC Summit on March 30 in Sri Lanka must respect calls from Myanmar democracy movement

By 136 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

Momentum for justice as US to label Rohingya crackdown genocide

By Amnesty International

Flash Update: No. 02 – INVEST 91B, Myanmar – 22 Mar 2022

By ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance

Yes, It Is and Always Has Been Genocide

By Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

US Companies Must Cut Ties with Burma’s Genocide Generals

By Burma Campaign UK

Burma Campaign UK Welcomes New UK Sanctions Targeting Burmese Military Air Force

By Burma Campaign UK

BROUK Welcomes New Sanctions On Myanmar Military By US, UK And Canada

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

BROUK Welcomes US Rohingya Genocide Determination

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Myanmar sentences journalists Hanthar Nyein and Than Htike Aung to 2 years in prison

By Committee to Protect Journalists

Statement on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Joint Statement on Armed Forces Day in Myanmar

By European Union and Foreign Ministers of Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia ,  Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States

Time for UN to Pursue Justice

By FORUM-ASIA, Progressive Voice, RW Welfare Society, Karen Human Rights Group and Chin Human Rights Organization

Myanmar: New Evidence and Findings of Post-Coup d’État Crimes Against Humanity

By Fortify Rights

U.N. Member States: Acknowledge the Rohingya Genocide, Refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court

By Fortify Rights

Civil Society Groups Reiterate Call on Japanese Investors in Myanmar’s Yetagun Gas Project to Responsibly Disengage

By Friends of the Earth Japan, Justice For Myanmar and Mekong Watch

Myanmar: Returning to Mindat

By International Committee of the Red Cross

ILO Governing Body Agrees Myanmar Commission of Inquiry

By International Labour Organization

Myanmar Junta Jails Three Journalists in One Week

By International Federation of Journalists

Justice For Myanmar Calls for Sanctions on 19 Russian Suppliers of Arms and Related Equipment to the Myanmar Military

By Justice For Myanmar

Justice For Myanmar Welcomes Canadian, UK and US Armed Forces Day Sanctions

By Justice For Myanmar

Telenor Group Is Aiding and Abetting M1 Group to Violate Myanmar Sanctions

By Justice For Myanmar

International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims

By Karen Human Rights Group

49th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council Item 4: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

By Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice

Unprecedented Legal Case To Launch in Turkey Against Myanmar Junta

By Myanmar Accountability Project

Justice and Defence Ministries Leading Investigation into Reported Unlawful Killings by Some Militants Associated with PDF Soldiers

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Justice)

Appointment of New Representative to France

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Press Release on the Visit of Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair to Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

National Unity Government Announcement 7/2022

By National Unity Government

Statement on the determination by the United States Government of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya

By National Unity Government (President Office)

Statement on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Myanmar since 1 February 2021

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

Statement on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

Letter from Senators to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand

By United States Senate

UN Secretary-General repeating cycle of UN failure in Myanmar

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Canada Further Sanctions Individuals and Entities Responsible for Procuring and Supplying Arms and Military Equipment to Myanmar

By Government of Canada

UN Human Rights Council 49: UK statement for the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s Report on Myanmar

By United Kingdom (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)

Myanmar: Armed Forces Day Spotlights Atrocities

By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar: US Recognizes Genocide Against Rohingya

By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar Military Leaders Must Be Prosecuted for Genocide Without Further Delay

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Sale of Telenor Myanmar completed

By Telenor Group

UK announces new sanctions against Myanmar military ahead of Myanmar Armed Forces Day

By United Kingdom (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)

Treasury Sanctions Military Leaders, Military-Affiliated Cronies and Businesses, and a Military Unit Prior to Armed Forces Day in Burma

By United States (Department of the Treasury)

Administrator Samantha Power on on Designation of Atrocities against Rohingya Genocide

By United States Agency for International Development

High Commissioner Says Accountability Remains Crucial to Any Solution to the Crisis in Myanmar

By UN Human Rights Council and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Human Rights Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Myanmar

By United Nations Human Rights Council

UN expert: Myanmar people betrayed with ‘vague declarations’ and ‘tedious, endless wait’ for action

By UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

Secretary Antony J. Blinken on the Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity in Burma

By U.S. Department of State

United States and Allies Impose Additional Sanctions on the Burmese Military Regime

By U.S. Department of State



Political Prisoners Experience in Interrogation, Judiciary, and Incarceration Since Burma’s Illegitimate Military Coup

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

“Nowhere is Safe” – The Myanmar Junta’s Crimes Against Humanity Following the Coup d’État

By Fortify Rights

ရှစ်လအတွင်း EAOS နယ်မြေများ၌ တိုက်ပွဲ နှစ်ထောင်ကျော်ရှိလာ

By Institute for Strategy and Policy – Myanmar

Solidarités International Myanmar: Update on Water Scarcity (24 of March 2022)

By Solidarités International

Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan Monitoring Report: January – December 2021

By United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Enabling atrocities: arms transfers by States Members of the United Nations to the Myanmar military: Conference room paper of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (A/HRC/49/CRP.1)

By United Nations Human Rights Council

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”