A civilian population comes under brutal attack by a heavily armed military force. What is the world to do? Amid Russia’s ongoing onslaught against Ukraine, this question has dominated the agendas of policymakers, monopolized headlines and taken over discussions on social media. But when Myanmar’s military, a perennial human rights violator, unleashed a scorched-earth campaign against the country’s Rohingya minority in 2016, the crisis was a secondary matter for most of the world.
Now, six years later—and one year after Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, overthrew the country’s incipient democracy—the United States has finally formally designated that 2016-2017 campaign against the Rohingya as a genocide.
The contrast between the U.S. responses to Ukraine and Myanmar was an awkward backdrop to Monday’s choreographed announcement in Washington. With the eyes of the world on Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stood at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and declared that, after studying the facts, the U.S. has confirmed the reports of mass atrocities against civilians and concluded that the Tatmadaw had indeed conducted a genocide.