Myanmar’s admission of killings ‘tip of iceberg’: Rights groups

YANGON: The Myanmar military’s involvement in the deaths of 10 Rohingyas 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 10 Royingyas 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 officer of Fortify Rights, said the Bangkok-based group had documented similar atrocities across northern Rakhine State, where a military crackdown prompted by 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,” he said, referring to the areas of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, where the minority population lived.
Amnesty International had documented “overwhelming evidence” in villages across the area that the “military has murdered and abused Rohingya, and burned their villages to the ground,” James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, on Thursday urged the Myanmar government to “get serious about accountability by allowing the UN appointed Fact Finding Commission to enter the country.”
The United Nations and the Delegation of the European Union to Myanmar renewed calls for an investigation on Thursday.
The spokesman from the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar said: “The [military] statement underscores the need for an independent investigation and media reporting on allegations of such human rights violations.”
“These brutal killings confirm the urgent need for a thorough and credible investigation into all violent incidents in northern Rakhine State,” an EU statement released on Thursday said.
The Myanmar government — headed by one-time democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi — has been accused by the United States and the United Nations 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 said that 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 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.
— dpa