Rights groups said Myanmar’s military 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.
Fortify Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch described the admission that ethnic Rakhine villagers and security forces killed 10 Royingya Muslims in Inn Dinn village on Sept. 2, 2018 as the “tip of the iceberg,” and urged an international investigation.
Matthew Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fortify Rights, said the group had documented similar atrocities across northern Rakhine State, where a military crackdown prompted by Rohingya militant attacks has driven no fewer than 650,000 Rohingya to flee the country.
“Massacres and mass graves have been a reality in all three townships in the north,” he told dpa by email, referring to the areas of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung where the minority Muslim population lived.
James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement released Wednesday that the organisation documented “overwhelming evidence” in villages across the area that the “military has murdered and raped Rohingya, and burned their villages to the ground.”
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,” in an email to dpa on Thursday.
The Myanmar government, headed by one-time democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi — has since been accused of “ethnic cleansing” by the U.S. and the UN.
The military denied all accusations of significant human rights abuses in a report released in November after an investigation.
The military’s Wednesday 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 the following morning.
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 it 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 impromptu event rather than part of the inherent brutality built into the army’s clearance operations in northern Rakhine state,” he said.
The military launched an investigation into the incident last month after the mass grave was found in the village’s cemetery.