U.S. Secretary of State Blinken: Act for the Rohingya and Call It Genocide

Four Years On, the United States Must Recognize Myanmar’s Brutal Attacks on Rohingya as Genocide


This Wednesday, August 25, marks the fourth year since the Myanmar military waged genocidal attacks on the Rohingya. The attacks led to thousands of deaths, mass rape, and the forced displacement of nearly 800,000 refugees to Bangladesh. Refugees International has consistently urged the U.S. government to recognize those attacks for what they are: genocide. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched a formal review on a Rohingya genocide determination in early 2021 and recently stated that it was being “very actively considered.” But the United States has yet to make a genocide determination.  

Refugees International Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan made the following statement: 

“Four years ago, I witnessed hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh by foot with only the clothes on their backs. They described in disturbingly consistent detail the tactics of the Myanmar military: surrounding villages, setting fires, and shooting people as they fled. The U.S. State Department, among many other organizations, has collected a mountain of evidence since.

Secretary Blinken should hesitate no longer in making a genocide determination.

The Myanmar military continues to attempt to consolidate power, expanding its history of cruel tactics against ethnic minorities to anyone who opposes its coup. Impunity has only fueled the military’s actions. Failure to recognize past abuses will only encourage the perpetrators and increase the risk of further mass atrocities. The stakes could not be higher.

A Rohingya genocide determination would underscore the United States’ commitment to accountability and create the precedent for recognizing abuses against other minority groups. It would create momentum for further global actions, including new targeted sanctions, an arms embargo, and reinforcement of accountability efforts. A Rohingya genocide determination would also signal U.S. solidarity with the Rohingya and with countries like Bangladesh, which continues to host nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees. Such solidarity may encourage increased humanitarian aid and positive policies toward refugees, even as Bangladesh implements more restrictions in the camps.

Perhaps most importantly, the horrible facts justify a legal determination that the state of Myanmar is responsible for this crime.

A genocide determination matters. It matters to the Rohingya who have suffered from the Myanmar military’s attacks. It matters to the latest targets of the military’s abuses. And it matters as a strong message to future would-be genocidaires. The time to call it genocide is now.” 

Refugees International led a recent joint letter signed by 95 organizations to Secretary Blinken urging a Rohingya genocide determination. The letter builds on previous efforts with the Trump administration as part of the #CallitGenocide campaign, which included a nearly 9,000-signature petition and a legal and human rights experts letter (signed by two senior officials in the Biden administration). Refugees International’s analysis on why the attacks on the Rohingya constitute genocide can be found here.


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International Director of Communications Sarah Sheffer at ssheffer@refugeesinternational.org or +1 202 540 7029.

COVER PHOTO: A Rohingya refugee stands in the Hakinpara refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on August 10, 2018. Photo Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images.