Court Martial Not Related to AP Mass Graves Report, Myanmar Military Says

By Htet Naing Zaw 3 September 2019

NAYPYITAW—A Myanmar Army spokesman said the military’s plan to begin court-martial proceedings against a group of soldiers has nothing to do with a case reported by The Associated Press (AP), and in fact stems from a separate incident that occurred in the same village.

The AP reported on Feb. 1 that hundreds of bodies had been found in five mass graves near Gutar Pyin village. It said the bodies had been burned with acid in an apparent attempt to destroy them.

The news agency said its report was based on video footage provided by Rohingya refugees now living in a camp in Bangladesh. It said it had interviewed at least two dozen refugees.

Military spokesman Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy that the court-martial proceedings were initiated in relation to a clash between the military (or Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) near Gutar Pyin in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township two years ago.

“Some insurgent villagers from Gutar Pyin were involved in the engagement. The government has issued a press release about it. Nineteen ARSA insurgents died in the fighting and some were injured,” Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun said.

“When the Court of Inquiry led by Major-General Myat Kyaw investigated the incident, it was found that [soldiers] did not fully comply with instructions, rules and ROE [rules of engagement]. So the Tatmadaw will establish a court martial and take action in line with military rules. Action will be taken against [soldiers involved in] that case only. It has nothing to do with the AP report,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The Tatmadaw will not release details of the incident or any other information until the investigation is over, he said. Under the military’s rules, a court martial is formed once sufficient evidence has been gathered to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of an offense, he said.

In February, the President’s Office denied the AP report, saying that no mass graves were found in Gutar Pyin village during an inspection of the area on Feb. 1 by officials and Muslim community leaders. Community leaders and local residents said there had been no mass killings, but reported that heavy clashes had erupted between government security forces and ARSA militants in Gutar Pyin on Aug. 28.

The Tatmadaw True News Information Team said in a recent statement, “The military Court of Inquiry found the soldiers did not fully comply with the rules of engagement in the case of Gutar Pyin, [and calls] for action to be taken against them in line with military rules.” The statement did not mention any connection with the AP report.