December 3, 2021

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Marking the Fourth Anniversary of the Ethnic Cleansing in Rakhine State

12 min read

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

Four years ago, Burma’s military launched a horrific ethnic cleansing against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.  The brutality of the military’s atrocities on that day shocked the conscience of the international community – but we recognize the Rohingya had already suffered decades of grave human rights abuses, and that many of those abuses continue today.  The United States remembers the victims and recommits to pursuing and demanding accountability for those responsible for these atrocities and other human rights abuses, and seeking justice for victims.  We recognize the need to address the root causes of this violence and hold perpetrators accountable to help prevent such atrocities from recurring. 

Today, the same military leaders who perpetrated the February 1 coup are committing abuses against pro-democracy activists and members of ethnic and religious communities across the country, and we have seen the same light infantry brigades that terrorized Rohingya communities in 2017 inflict brutal violence on pro-democracy protestors since the coup.  The coup and the brutality of the military’s subsequent crackdown have exacerbated the already precarious situation for vulnerable people across Burma, including Rohingya.  The United States continues to underscore the need for unhindered humanitarian access to all people requiring assistance in Burma.  

At the launch of the 2021 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis in May, the United States announced nearly $155 million in new assistance to sustain critical efforts to support Rohingya refugees and members of the host communities in Bangladesh and internally displaced Rohingya. and other affected people in Burma. Our assistance will help meet the immediate needs of nearly 900,000 refugees in Bangladesh, including women and children. This new funding, which includes life-saving COVID assistance, brought our total humanitarian aid for those affected by the crisis in Burma, Bangladesh, and elsewhere in the region, to more than $1.3 billion – including more than $1.1 billion in Bangladesh and more than $238 million in Burma – since August 2017. We encourage other members of the international community to likewise support peace building and social cohesion work in Rakhine State, and to contribute to the Joint Response Plan.

The United States will continue to promote justice for victims and accountability for those responsible for atrocities and other human rights abuses. To that end, we have imposed visa restrictions and financial sanctions on top military leaders and units, including those linked to serious human rights abuse against Rohingya, and suppression of peaceful protests since the February 1 coup. We have also supported the UN fact finding and investigative mechanisms focused on Burma; and pressed Burma to implement the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures order.  

The United States also welcomes the inclusive path forward envisioned by the NUG and other pro-democracy groups in Burma and their pledge to reform the 1982 citizenship law, among other actions intended to protect the rights of Rohingya and members of other ethnic minority groups.  These steps will be necessary to safeguard the human rights and human dignity of all people in Burma, including Rohingya.

The United States will continue to partner with the people of Burma to support peace and justice, critical humanitarian assistance, a return to the path to democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

More from: Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

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