Ad­mit­ted killings just tip of ice­berg – rights groups

Pretoria News - - WORLD -

YAN­GON: The Myan­mar mil­i­tary’s in­volve­ment in the deaths of 10 Ro­hingya Mus­lims in north­ern Rakhine State, ad­mit­ted by the com­man­der-in-chief, is just a frac­tion of the abuses for which se­cu­rity forces are cul­pa­ble, rights groups say.

Fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of a mass grave in Inn Dinn vil­lage, the mil­i­tary launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent last month.

On Wed­nes­day, it ad­mit­ted that eth­nic Rakhine vil­lagers and se­cu­rity forces killed the 10 Roy­ingya Mus­lims in the vil­lage on Septem­ber 2 last year.

In sep­a­rate state­ments, For­tify Rights, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and Hu­man Rights Watch all de­scribed the ad­mis­sion as the “tip of the ice­berg” and urged an in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Matthew Smith, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of For­tify Rights, said the group, based in Bangkok, had doc­u­mented sim­i­lar atroc­i­ties across the north­ern Rakhine State, where a mil­i­tary crack­down prompted by Ro­hingya mil­i­tant at­tacks has driven more than 650 000 Ro­hingya to flee the coun­try.

“Mas­sacres and mass graves have been a re­al­ity in all three town­ships in the north,” Smith said, re­fer­ring to the ar­eas of Maung­daw, Buthi­daung and Rathedaung, where the mi­nor­ity Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion lived.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional had doc­u­mented “over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence” in vil­lages across the area that the “mil­i­tary has mur­dered and raped Ro­hingya, and burnt their vil­lages to the ground,” James Gomez, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s re­gional di­rec­tor for South­east Asia and the Pa­cific, said in a state­ment re­leased on Wed­nes­day.

Phil Robert­son, deputy Asia di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, urged the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment to “get se­ri­ous about ac­count­abil­ity by al­low­ing the UN-ap­pointed Fact Find­ing Com­mis­sion to en­ter the coun­try”.

His words echoed a com­ment from the spokesper­son from the Of­fice of the UN Res­i­dent and Hu­man­i­tar­ian Co-or­di­na­tor in Myan­mar yes­ter­day, who said: “The (mil­i­tary) state­ment un­der­scores the need for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion and me­dia re­port­ing on al­le­ga­tions of such hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.” The Myan­mar gov­ern­ment – headed by one-time democ­racy icon Aung San Suu Kyi – has been ac­cused by the US and the UN of “eth­nic cleans­ing” in the mil­i­tary crack­down on Ro­hingya.

The mil­i­tary de­nied all ac­cu­sa­tions of sig­nif­i­cant hu­man rights abuses in a re­port re­leased in Novem­ber fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The mil­i­tary’s state­ment on Wed­nes­day said due to on­go­ing at­tacks, se­cu­rity forces deemed it im­pos­si­ble to bring the 10 men to the po­lice sta­tion and de­cided in­stead to ex­e­cute the sus­pects at the vil­lage ceme­tery on the morn­ing af­ter their cap­ture.

An eth­nic Rakhine Bud­dhist mob dug a grave be­fore set­ting upon the Ro­hingya with knives and farm tools, ac­cord­ing to the mil­i­tary’s re­port.

Four mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces also opened fire.

“It is ap­palling that sol­diers have at­tempted to jus­tify ex­tra­ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions by say­ing they were needed as re­in­force­ments else­where and did not know what to do with the men,” Gomez said.

“Such be­hav­iour shows a con­tempt for hu­man life which is sim­ply be­yond com­pre­hen­sion.”

Robert­son warned that the ad­mis­sion did not rep­re­sent a change of heart from the mil­i­tary.

“Note­wor­thy is the fact that no one but sev­eral low-level sol­diers and a few vil­lagers are im­pli­cated, as if this was an im­promptu event rather than part of the in­her­ent bru­tal­ity built into the army’s clear­ance op­er­a­tions in north­ern Rakhine State,” he said.


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