US to look into results of Tatmadaw investigation of Rakhine violence
THE United States said it will look into the investigation conducted by the Tatmadaw of the recent violence in northern Rakhine State that killed hundreds of people and displaced over 600,000 Muslims, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.
The official, who will accompany State Secretary Rex Tillerson on his visit to Myanmar today, said the state department has yet to receive a report about the Tatmadaw investigation.
“That’s one of the things we’ll be looking into when we go,” the official told a select group of reporters in Manila on the eve of Tillerson’s trip to Myanmar.
“As far as whether or not Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wants to solve the crisis, I can assure you that she does,” the official said. “Here in Manila, she’s had conversations with almost all her counterparts and has been very forthcoming about wanting to solve the problem.”
Late Monday, the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team released the findings of its investigation of the actions of security forces in Rakhine during the August 25 terrorist attacks and its aftermath.
The report denied widespread allegations by the international community of massive abuses and excessive force used by troops in suppressing Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) terrorists.
It said Tatmadaw forces “strictly abided by the orders and directives of the superiors, especially the rules of engagement.”
Civilians in the area, including Muslims who were interviewed by the investigating team testified that “security forces did not shoot innocent villagers, commit sexual violence or rape women.”
“They [the troops] did not arrest, beat or kill villagers. They did not destroy, rob or take property, gold and silver, vehicles or animals from villagers or displaced villagers,” the report said.
“They did not set fire to mosques in ‘Bengali’ villages. They allowed ‘Bengali’ villagers to worship in freedom without banning them from mosques or prayers. They did not threaten, bully or drive out people from their villages or set fire to their houses,” it said.
The report said some 6000 to 10,000 ARSA terrorists and their supporters set fire to the houses in the villages and forced residents to flee to Bangladesh or “they would be considered traitors to Islam” and they would slit their throats.
Witnesses said the ARSA fighters and their supporters told the villagers to run away or be attacked by government troops firing grenade launchers, setting fire to their villages, shooting them with machine guns and bombing them with helicopters.
According to the UN, over 600,000 Muslims from northern Rakhine have fled to Bangladesh to escape the violence, and the exodus continues.
The report claimed that the fighting in northern Rakhine lasted only 12 days, starting on August 25 when ARSA fighters launched attacks on government outposts, and ending on September 5.
It said there were 94 clashes, resulting in the deaths of 376 ARSA fighters and 13 Tatmadaw soldiers.
An international human rights organisation dismissed the Tatmadaw investigation as an effort to whitewash “ethnic cleansing.”
“The Burmese military’s latest claim that its forces did not commit abuses during recent operations against ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State is contrary to a large and growing body of evidence,” the New Yorkbased Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
“The Burmese authorities’ failure to credibly and impartially investigate grave violations amounting to crimes against humanity demonstrates the need for the government to allow the United Nations appointed fact-finding mission into the country to conduct independent investigations,” it added.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Manila on Tuesday on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, expressed his “deep concern” over the hundreds of thousands of refugees that fled from Myanmar.
“It is a worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy and a potential source of instability in the region and radicalisation,” he said in a statement ahead of the meeting with the State Counsellor.
“Since the beginning of the crisis, I have called for unhindered humanitarian access to affected communities and the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return of those who fled, to their places of origin,” he said.
Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi looks on at the ASEAN-European Union summit in Manila on Tuesday.