Violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State was “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents,” a US State Department investigation found. However, the report stopped short of calling the violence “genocide.”
The results of the investigation, which were quietly released on Monday, suggested that Myanmar’s security forces engaged in a “well planned and coordinated” campaign of violence against the Muslim minority.
The State Department worked with human rights investigators in the spring of 2018 to conduct surveys with more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh. Their testimonies paint a shocking portrait of the atrocities committed over the past two years.
“I had to choose between my children and my mother… I had only two hands and two children,” a 35-year-old male refugee described.
According to the report, most of the refugees witnessed a killing, two-thirds witnessed an injury, and half witnessed sexual violence. One-fifth of the refugees in the survey witnessed a mass-casualty event with more than 100 people. Seventy-five percent said they saw members of the army kill someone. That same percentage said they saw the army destroy huts and villages.
“The military and BGP (Border Guard Police) slaughtered my son, who was 5 years old. When military came, I was pregnant. The situation was very horrific. I could not get all of my children. I could not go to my son. He was killed,” a 25-year-old female said.
Forty-five percent of refugees witnessed a rape, and most were committed by a member of the army.
“About 100 women were rounded up and raped in the hills, on the road, in front of their homes, wherever they could find them,” a 60-year-old female described.
Although the report describes the violence as “atrocities,” it does not go as far as to label them “genocide” or “crimes against humanity.”
An independent UN investigation released in late August called for Myanmar’s military leaders to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Following the release of that report, UN Secretary General António Guterres said the Myanmar government should be held accountable for “one of the world’s worst humanitarian and human rights crises.”
The release of the State Department report came on the same day that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced that the US would provide more than $185M in humanitarian aid to Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
“We continue to call on the Burmese government to do more to hold those who have engaged in ethnic cleansing accountable for their atrocities, end the violence, and allow full humanitarian and free press access. And we greatly appreciate Bangladesh’s unwavering generosity in hosting and caring for the refugees,” Haley said in a statement.