Govt Investigation Dismisses Allegations of Rohingya Killings

By San Yamin Aung 11 March 2014

RANGOON — The Burmese government on Tuesday released its final report on the alleged killings of dozens of Rohingya Muslims in Duu Chee Yar Tan village in northern Arakan State in January and it again strongly denied that any such violence took place.

Much of the English-language 20 page summary of the report also focused on expressing the government’s displeasure with the UN and Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland, which have made statements indicating that violence did occur in the Rohingya village.

Kyaw Yin Hlaing, secretary of the commission and an adviser to President Thein Sein, and Tha Hla Shwe of the Myanmar Red Cross Society and chairperson of the commission, told reporters during a press conference in Rangoon that they had found no evidence of killings of Muslim civilians.

“There were allegations of deaths, but we don’t see evidence of deaths,” said Tha Hla Shwe. “Where are the bodies, where were the dead bodies buried, what happened to the bodies? Nobody could tell us.”

Kyaw Yin Hlaing said a conflict may have broken out between local residents and security forces following the disappearance of police sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein, who is now presumed to be dead, and added that the commission saw damaged homes during its visit. However, he said they did not find evidence that security forces had caused all the damage.

In late January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she received “credible information” indicating that police and an Arakanese Buddhist mob killed about 40 civilians during a raid on Du Chee Yar Tan, a Rohingya village in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, during a Jan. 13 operation to find a police sergeant who had gone missing in the village.

UN human rights rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana said on Feb. 20 that Arakan authorities had informed him that “100 policemen with live ammunition” had carried out the operation. He said he received “allegations of the brutal killing of men, women and children, sexual violence against women, and the looting and burning of properties” during the operation.

However, the government has vehemently denied such claims and several investigations have backed up the government’s position. The final report by the Investigation Commission for the Duu Chee Yar Tan Incident released Tuesday was no different.

The investigation commission was established on Feb. 6 and conducted its field assessment from Feb. 15-21, with a mandate that focused on finding the “root cause” of the death of the policeman, according to state-run media. It was also tasked with investigating the cause of a fire in west Duu Chee Yar Tan following the alleged killings, and to suggest measures for preventing further sectarian conflict.

The report recommended that the government begins citizenship assessment of residents in northern Arakan State in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Law. It urged the government to build up trust between Muslim and Buddhist communities, while also suggesting that authorities “enhance security measures and border control” in the region.

Most Rohingya are denied citizenship by the 1982 law and the government refers to them as “Bengalis” to suggest that they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, although many have lived in the country for generations. International human rights groups say the Muslim minority in northern Arakan State suffers from a wide range of rights violations at the hands of the Burmese government and its security forces.

The report also recommends that the government keeps a tight control on the Arakan State operations of international NGOs such as MSF and UN organizations, and it uses strong-worded language to condemn the organizations over their statements regarding the Duu Chee Yar Tan incident.

“It is unfortunate that … [the incident] has become an issue that the international community views as a matter for discussion with the Government of Myanmar. The UN contributed in no small way to the conflation of this issue, by issuing reports without verifying the facts,” the report said.

“Instead of working together with the Myanmar Government to resolve misunderstandings and problems, the UN has focused on trying to prove the veracity of its report, thereby wasting its time,” the commission wrote.

“The actions of INGOs and the UN to date have been to enhance their reputation among their donors at the expense of inflating tensions in the host country,” the commission claimed. It went on to recommend that “rules and operational procedures be set for such entities and that […] firm and effective action should be taken against those organizations that break the rules.”

Late last month, the government decided to suspend the operations of MSF Holland in Arakan State, where the medical charity provided vital health care services to tens of thousands of Rohingyas who are barred from accessing government clinics.

The report also took aim at media organizations that published the statements made by the UN, MSF and human rights organizations researching the situation of the Rohingyas.

Without going into details the commission recommended that “strong measures be taken to counter the false allegations made by media. This includes timely sharing of information with the public and establishing channels and mechanisms to counter the false allegations.”

Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze.