WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said today that there is compelling evidence that the Burmese military committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingya, the Muslim minority population of Burma.
The Museum came to this conclusion based on: a careful analysis in consultation with an advisory group of atrocity experts; its own on-the-ground, original research that resulted in a joint report in 2017 with Fortify Rights; and information recently released in the Department of State’s documentation report and the United Nations Fact Finding Mission.
"The Burmese military’s campaign against the Rohingya, especially the attacks of August 2017, have been deliberate, systematic, and widespread," said Amb. Lee Feinstein, founding dean of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University and a member of the Museum’s governing Council and the Chairman of its Committee on Conscience, which advises the genocide prevention work of the Museum. "For the sake of the remnant community of Rohingya still in Burma and those threatened with being returned, we hope this announcement prods action."
For decades, the Burmese government has persecuted the Rohingya, stripping them of citizenship and subjecting them to waves of mass violence. In March 2015, the Museum issued a report warning that preconditions of genocide against the Rohingya were clearly evident. Other organizations also issued warnings that went unheeded. The Burmese government has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
In August 2017, attacks on the Rohingya community by the Burmese military and others included mass killing, rape, torture, arson, arbitrary arrest and detention, and forced displacement of more than 700,000 people. The 2017 report issued by the Museum and Fortify Rights, “They Tried to Kill Us All,” documented these atrocities.
"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. "The Rohingya victims we work with feel abandoned. The world has turned a blind eye to their persecution – just as it did for victims of the Holocaust."
The Museum’s reporting shows that other religious and ethnic communities in Burma – including the Kachin and Shan – are also at risk of mass atrocities at the hands of the Burmese military. Kikoler said that in order to respond to crimes of this magnitude, the Burmese government needs to be pressed by other states to undertake genuine efforts to prevent further atrocities; protect all vulnerable communities including the Rohingya who remain in the country; cooperate with international investigations and assistance programs; hold perpetrators accountable in a credible and independent court; and undertake significant reforms to end discrimination against the Rohingya and restore their citizenship.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires leaders and citizens worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.
The Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide works to make the prevention of genocide and related crimes against humanity a national and international priority. The Museum’s far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.