WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A US government investigation has found that Myanmar’s military waged a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Southeast Asian nation’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
The US State Department report, which was released on Monday, could be used to justify further US sanctions or other punitive measures against Myanmar authorities, US officials told Reuters.
But it stopped short of describing the crackdown as genocide or crimes against humanity, an issue that other US officials said was the subject of fierce internal debate that delayed the report’s rollout for nearly a month.
The report, which was first reported by Reuters, resulted from more than a thousand interviews of Rohingya men and women in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, where almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled after a military campaign last year in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
“The survey reveals that the recent violence in northern Rakhine State was extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorising the population and driving out the Rohingya residents,” according to the 20-page report. “The scope and scale of the military’s operations indicate they were well-planned and coordinated.”
The results of the US investigation were released in low-key fashion – posted on the State Department’s website – nearly a month after UN investigators issued their own report accusing Myanmar’s military of acting with “genocidal intent” and calling for the country’s commander-in-chief and five generals to be prosecuted under international law.
US Senior State Department officials said the objective of the investigation was not to determine genocide but to “document the facts” on the atrocities to guide US policy aimed at holding the perpetrators accountable. The report, however, proposes no new steps.
A declaration of genocide by the US government, which has only gone as far as labeling the crackdown “ethnic cleansing,” could have legal implications of committing Washington to stronger punitive measures against Myanmar. This has made some in the Trump administration wary of issuing such an assessment.
The International Criminal Court last week said it had begun an examination of whether the alleged forced deportations of Rohingya could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.