A day after the United States declared that the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar amounted to genocide, Myanmar's military junta-appointed foreign ministry on Tuesday, 22 March, slammed the declaration as being "far from reality."
The ministry added, "Myanmar has never engaged in any genocidal actions and does not have any genocidal intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, or religious group or any other group," news agency AFP reported.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that the US has seen evidence indicating a clear intent to destroy the Rohingya, with reports of killings, mass rape, and arson, which has led to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar since the military crackdown began in 2017.
More than 6,000 people were killed in the first month of the onslaught, BBC reported.
Onslaught on the Rohingyas also became the subject of a genocide case in 2019 at the United Nations' International Court of Justice in the Hague.
Blinken added that the US administration's determination was based on a review by the US state department that included documents gathered by organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as independent research by the US.
Further, Blinken said that the US will provide $1 million in new funding for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which continues to examine atrocities.
Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state and while around 8,50,000 Rohingya are in camps in Bangladesh, another 6,00,000 members of the community remain in Myanmar's Rakhine where they report widespread oppression.
While the crackdown had begun in 2017, Aung San Suu Kyi's government was ousted in 2021, with the military junta taking over in a coup and doubling down on widespread perceptions that the Rohingya are interlopers from Bangladesh.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing – head of the armed forces during the 2017 crackdown – has even dismissed the word Rohingya as "an imaginary term."
(With inputs from AFP and BBC.)