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Two Years Since U.S. Genocide Determination, Rohingya Still in Danger

March 19th, 2024  •  Author:   Refugees International  •  6 minute read
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This Thursday, March 21, marks two years since the United States made the official determination that crimes committed by the Myanmar army against the Rohingya are genocide. In announcing the determination, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged to support the Rohingya in a path out of genocide. The United States has since provided financial assistance for humanitarian and accountability efforts and begun resettlement of Rohingya to the United States. But the goal of returning Rohingya to Myanmar – what most refugees say they want most – remains a distant prospect.

To mark two years since the official genocide determination, Refugees International asked several Rohingya refugees and diaspora leaders what the determination meant to them and what they would like to see the United States and the world do to truly help them build a path out of genocide. Here is what they said:

Rohingya Speak Out

Ali Johar, Rohingya civil society leader and current Refugees International Fellow, living in India:

“The United States recognition of the Rohingya genocide was a strong show of solidarity for the Rohingya community. This hugely helps our case in the international courts. But in the meantime, the atrocities continue. With half a million continuing to face genocide in Myanmar and over a million suffering as refugees in Bangladesh, urgent action is needed.

While we appreciate U.S. recognition, it’s crucial for the United States to fulfill its duty in protecting survivors, preventing further atrocities, and bringing perpetrators to justice. The recognition does not help much when survivors continue to face the genocide and perpetrators roam free. The United States can do more.”

Lucky Karim, a Rohingya youth leader resettled to the United States from the refugee camps in Bangladesh in December 2022: 

“The United States should be committed to seeking accountability for those responsible for the genocidal crimes against us Rohingya and against humanity. We also ask the United States to work with the international community and Rohingya to find justice for the victims.

The United States should use international law to solve the conflict in Myanmar. The international community has failed in responding to the situation in Myanmar at its early stage because of the Rohingya’s absence at the table. And I want the U.S. government and international community to find solutions with Rohingya instead of working for Rohingya.”

Rezuwan Khan, Rohingya human rights defender living in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, Founder of Global Rohingya Future:

“In order to ensure justice for the Rohingya and hold the military regime accountable for its atrocities against all Rohingya people, the U.S. determination of genocide was a significant move. But the military regime keeps committing the same atrocities on all the civilians, especially the Rohingya, while China and Russia stand by the military.

To mitigate the amount of bloodshed and stop additional genocide, the United States, together with the international community, should intensify pressure not just on the military regime but on those countries supporting the regime financially. The United States should take concrete action to give hope to the million refugees, before it is too late.

To let the Rohingya people live in peace in our motherland, the United States should use its power to create a safer and more secure environment in Arakan for Rohingya.”

Tun Khin, leading Rohingya activist, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, and member of Refugees International’s Advisory Council:

“The genocide determination was an important acknowledgment of what was happening to us. Having legally certified that genocide has been committed against us, why are we still waiting for practical action in response to the genocide? It is not enough to say genocide is happening, we need action to prevent ongoing genocide.

Two years from the genocide determination, violence against the Rohingya is escalating once again. And, once again, there is inaction from the international community.”

Wai Wai Nu, Rohingya Human Rights and Women’s Rights Activist who spent seven years as a political prisoner in Myanmar, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Peace Network:

“Two years since the U.S. atrocity determination, Rohingya remaining in Myanmar are facing heightened genocide risks amid the Burmese military’s escalating armed conflict with the Arakan Army. They are also facing the use of forced conscription, airstrikes, shelling, and villages as battlefields. These circumstances, on top of the decades-long apartheid in Rakhine State, are now leaving Rohingya no choice but to risk being killed for their survival.

At the same time, the conditions of Rohingya refugees are worsening in Asia, with UNHCR finding 2023 as the deadliest year for sea crossings in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Nowhere is safe for Rohingya today.

The U.S. government must keep its promise to help Rohingya in our path out of genocide by addressing its root causes and aiding Rohingya remaining in Myanmar and globally. As has been done for many other communities facing this heinous crime, Congress must enact legislation to end genocide in Myanmar in line with the atrocity prevention obligations under the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act.”

Refugees International’s Take

The coup launched by the Myanmar military junta in 2021 has devastated the country and renewed risks to the Rohingya. As fighting between the junta and the Arakan Army intensifies in the Rohingya homeland of Rakhine State, the estimated 600,000 Rohingya still in the country are facing restricted aid, shelling of civilian areas, and forced conscription. The 1 million Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh remain dependent on underfunded humanitarian aid and face increasing insecurity as dozens have been killed by criminal and extremist groups operating within the refugee camps. Thousands of Rohingya have taken dangerous voyages by sea to escape their difficult circumstances, with hundreds believed to have drowned. And tens of thousands of other Rohingya in India, Indonesia, and Malaysia face heavily restricted rights, arbitrary and indefinite detention, and even forced return to the genocidal regime from which they escaped.

Refugees International continues to call for increased humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees, support for accountability measures, and increased resettlement opportunities for Rohingya to the United States and other countries.

Rohingya refugees and Refugees International experts are available for media comment about the crisis and genocide determination.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Etant Dupain at [email protected].


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