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UUSC Responds to Biden Administration’s Official Determination of Genocide in Burma

This much-needed determination is a small step towards greater accountability for the Burmese military.
Cambridge, MA—In response to the Biden administration’s official declaration that the Tatmadaw, the Burmese (Myanmar) military has committed acts of genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority, UUSC’s president Rev. Mary Katherine Morn issued the following statement: 

“We applaud today’s decision as a vital step toward justice and accountability for the crimes the Burmese military has committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities. Nearly five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya civilians were driven from their homes in a campaign of arson, murder, and rape. As international human rights observers and Rohingya leaders have documented time and again, these crimes were not the acts of isolated individuals, but a campaign of genocide planned, incited, and orchestrated from the top by the Burmese military leadership. 

“The international community’s failure to name and condemn this crime as a genocide and to hold its perpetrators accountable has emboldened the Burmese military to commit still further crimes. Three years after the Rohingya genocide and forced expulsion, the Tatmadaw staged a military coup, overthrowing and jailing the country’s elected civilian leadership. In the year since, they have detained and murdered countless activists and citizens protesting for freedom, concentrating much of their brutality against the country’s ethnic minorities. In recent months, the Tatmadaw have waged a particularly brutal campaign of massacre and airstrikes against the Karenni people, including by burning alive 35 defenseless civilians on Christmas Eve.

“By finally acknowledging the Tamadaw’s genocide against the Rohingya for what it was, the Biden administration is taking a much-needed step to rectify the U.S. government’s prior dereliction of duty. We regret, however, that this decision came so late.

“We therefore hope that today’s long-overdue decision is only one in a series of steps the administration will take to ensure justice for the Rohingya, the Karenni people, and other ethnic communities in Burma who have for too long been forced to confront the Tatmadaw’s tyranny. As my colleague, Myra Dahgaypaw—from Burma’s Karen state and a former internally displaced person and refugee—said today in response to the administration’s decision: ‘If this five-years-long decision is to be anything other than a hollow gesture that will have the opposite of its intended effect, the Biden administration must follow it up with strong actions. Tangible action must be taken to release the people of Burma from this cycle of violence, beginning with holding the military accountable for all genocidal acts and crimes against the humanity of all the people of Burma.’

“This is our message to the administration today: We applaud this step, but don’t stop here. The demands of justice are clear. The stakes are the fundamental human rights of the people of Burma. The Tatmadaw must be held to account for their crimes.” 

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The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a human rights and solidarity organization founded as a rescue mission in 1940 during the Holocaust. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and with a membership of more than 35,000 supporters across the United States, UUSC’s programs focus on the issues of migrant justice, climate and disaster justice, and international justice and accountability. 

UUSC’s Burma program spans 25 years of donor support to Burmese- and ethnic minority-led human rights and humanitarian aid organizations.