August 24, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three years after the Burmese military systematically attacked Rohingya civilians, the approximately 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Burma continue to face a risk of genocide. For the one million Rohingya refugees who fled Burma for Bangladesh in 2017 and during previous periods of violence, the situation remains dangerous. They live in crowded camps near the border, unable to safely return home. To do so would be to face the threat of genocide.
The Rohingya, a religious and ethnic minority in Burma, have faced decades of state-sponsored persecution. On August 25, 2017, the Burmese military launched a series of attacks that killed more than 9,000 Rohingya and forced over 700,000 to flee. Those attacks were part of a larger, sustained genocidal campaign against the Rohingya community. Our recently launched online exhibition, “Burma’s Path to Genocide,” details this history of persecution, how the Rohingya went from citizens to outcasts, and ultimately became the targets of genocide.
Since the genocide began, there has been no meaningful change in Burma’s treatment of the Rohingya population. In January 2020, the International Court of Justice ordered Burma to take immediate measures to halt and prevent acts of genocide, yet the Burmese government has ignored this order. The Burmese military continues to target the Rohingya, as well as other ethnic groups, including the Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, and more. Despite ample evidence, the Burmese government continues to deny the commission of genocide and refuses to hold accountable those who instigated and perpetrated the crimes.
With Burma’s national elections in November, it appears increasingly likely that the Rohingya will be denied the right to vote—purely because of their identity—once again excluding them from Burmese society. This disenfranchisement of the Rohingya, continued denial of their citizenship, as well as ongoing restrictions on freedom of movement and access to health care, show that the Burmese government has not taken necessary steps to alleviate the systematic persecution or mitigate the risk of further atrocities.
“Instead of responding seriously to its obligations to prevent and punish genocide, the Burmese government is continuing its violent campaigns against ethnic minorities in the country,” said Naomi Kikoler, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “Until there are substantial reforms that end the Burmese military’s longstanding lawlessness and impunity, Rohingya will remain at risk of mass atrocities, including genocide. The Rohingya and other Burmese minorities have the unequivocal human right to express their ethnic and religious identities without fear of persecution and violence. Governments worldwide have a critical role in helping to protect these communities. A basic starting point is to call the crimes against the Rohingya by their name: genocide.”
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.
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