Myan­mar mil­i­tary de­nies atroc­i­ties vs Ro­hingya

Business World - - THE WORLD -

YANGON — Myan­mar’s army re­leased a re­port on Mon­day deny­ing all al­le­ga­tions of rape and killings by se­cu­rity forces, hav­ing days ear­lier re­placed the gen­eral in charge of the op­er­a­tion that drove more than 600,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims to flee to Bangladesh.

No rea­son was given for Ma­jor Gen­eral Maung Maung Soe be­ing trans­ferred from his post as the head of Western Com­mand in Rakhine state, where Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary, known as the Tat­madaw, launched a sweep­ing counter- in­sur­gency op­er­a­tion in Au­gust.

“I don’t know the rea­son why he was trans­ferred,” Ma­jor Gen­eral Aye Lwin, deputy di­rec­tor of the psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare and pub­lic re­la­tion depart­ment at the Min­istry of De­fense, told Reuters.

“He wasn’t moved into any po­si­tion at present. He has been put in re­serve.”

A se­nior United Na­tions of­fi­cial, who had toured the refugee camps in Bangladesh, on Sun­day ac­cused Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary of con­duct­ing or­ga­nized mass rape and other crimes against hu­man­ity.

The Myan­mar mil­i­tary said its own in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion had ex­on­er­ated se­cu­rity forces of all ac­cu­sa­tions of atroc­i­ties. The in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ find­ings were posted on the Face­book page of the mil­i­tary’s com­man­der- inchief, Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing.

The de­vel­op­ments came ahead of a visit on Wed­nes­day by US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son. He is ex­pected to de­liver a stern mes­sage to Myan­mar’s gen­er­als, over whom national leader Aung San Suu Kyi has lit­tle con­trol.

A spokes­woman for the US State Depart­ment, Katina Adams, said the United States was aware of re­ports of the gen­eral’s re­place­ment and added: “We re­main gravely con­cerned by con­tin­u­ing re­ports of vi­o­lence and hu­man rights abuses com­mit­ted by Burmese se­cu­rity forces and vig­i­lantes. Those re­spon­si­ble for abuses must be held ac­count­able.”

Law­mak­ers in Washington are press­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion im­pos­ing eco­nomic and travel sanc­tions tar­get­ing the mil­i­tary and its business in­ter­ests.

In an op-ed in Bri­tain’s Guardian on Mon­day, Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Steve Chabot and Demo­cratic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Joseph Crow­ley said it was time to “ex­pe­di­tiously” im­pose sanc­tions.

“The US needs to send a clear mes­sage that there is no ex­cuse for a cruel, ex­ten­sive and grossly dis­pro­por­tion­ate crack­down on civil­ians,” they said.

The gov­ern­ment in mostly Bud­dhist Myan­mar, which is also known as Burma, re­gards the Ro­hingya as il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh.

TOUCHY ASEAN IS­SUE

Lead­ers of Asian na­tions meet­ing in Manila on Mon­day skirted around the ex­o­dus of the Ro­hingya, dis­ap­point­ing hu­man rights groups who were hop­ing for a tough stand.

Mr. Maung Maung Soe’s trans­fer was or­dered on Fri­day and Bri­gadier Gen­eral Soe Tint Naing, for­merly a di­rec­tor in lo­gis­tics, was ap­pointed as the new head of Western Com­mand.

Made up of three di­vi­sions, Western Com­mand is over­seen by the Bu­reau of Special Oper­a­tions, which re­ports to the off ice of Mr. Min Aung Hlaing.

A se­nior UN of­fi­cial, UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights Zeid Ra’ad al- Hus­sein, has de­scribed the army’s ac­tions in Rakhine as a text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing.

Myan­mar says the clear­ance op­er­a­tion was nec­es­sary for national se­cu­rity af­ter Ro­hingya mil­i­tants at­tacked 30 se­cu­rity posts and an army base in the state on Aug. 25.

The in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion put the num­ber of fight­ers in­volved in the at­tacks at over 10,000, more than dou­bling an ear­lier of­fi­cial es­ti­mate.

Speak­ing in Dhaka, Pramila Pat­ten, the UN Special Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral on Sex­ual Vi­o­lence in Con­flict, said she would raise ac­cu­sa­tions against the Myan­mar mil­i­tary with the International Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

“When I return to New York, I will brief and raise the is­sue with the pros­e­cu­tor and pres­i­dent of the ICC whether they (Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary) can be held re­spon­si­ble for these atroc­i­ties,” Ms. Pat­ten said.

“Sex­ual vi­o­lence is be­ing com­manded, or­ches­trated and per­pe­trated by the Armed Forces of Myan­mar, other­wise known as the Tat­madaw,” Ms. Pat­ten said fol­low­ing a three­day tour of the Ro­hingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar re­gion of Bangladesh.

“Rape is an act and a weapon of geno­cide.”

Refugees have ac­cused Myan­mar sol­diers and Bud­dhist vig­i­lantes of torch­ing their vil­lages, mur­der­ing their fam­i­lies and rap­ing women. —

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