American officials have revealed that former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stopped a declaration prepared against Myanmar’s military leaders on the genocide of minority Rohingya Muslims.
A Reuters special report prepared after interviewing 18 current and former US officials who worked on US-Myanmar policy revealed that in the last days of the Trump administration, some US officials had urged the then-outgoing US State Secretary to formally declare that the Myanmar military’s offensive against the Rohingya Muslims was a genocide.
However, Pompeo declined to condemn the military leaders of the Southeast Asian country fearing that US condemnation would harbor a grudge against Washington and strengthen their bonds with Beijing.
Experts believe the US silence about the genocide of Muslims emboldened the junta in Myanmar to act with impunity and stage a coup against the democratically-elected government of Aung Suu Kyi and seize power.
Pompeo’s refusal to condemn the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in the strongest terms available at the hands of soldiers and monks was a missed opportunity to have “a moderating” effect on the junta, said Morse Tan, who backed a genocide determination on Myanmar as head of the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the State Department.
“Maybe (the coup) would have happened anyways, but I think it would have at least been a significant weight in the direction towards prevention and deterrence,” Tan noted.
Pompeo, as the secretary of state, had the sole authority to make a genocide determination. Tan said Pompeo never explained why he refused to do so.
A US declaration of genocide, in particular, would carry a lot of weight, according to officials and rights advocates who hoped such a call would rally global support to hold Myanmar’s generals accountable.
The latest military campaign against the minority Rohigya Muslims in Myanmar began in 2017.
Muslims were forced to flee their homes in Rakhine State following waves of attacks by soldiers joined by Buddhist monks.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were violently uprooted by the belligerent forces under the pretext of what was described as a coordinated militant attack on army posts.
Those who survived the torture and torching of villages, exacerbated by rape and brutal killings, sought refuge in Bangladesh and other neighboring countries, hoping for a day to return home.
The bloody offensive forced at least 730,000 members of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority into Bangladesh alone.
The UN described the deadly campaign as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, saying it possibly amounted to “crimes against humanity” or “genocide” – offenses that ultimately could be charged in international courts.