Myanmar Army to Release Probe into Alleged Atrocities in Rakhine

By The Irrawaddy 13 October 2017

YANGON — The Myanmar Army has announced it will release the findings of an investigation into any misconduct by government forces in Rakhine State following accusations surrounding its clearance operations late last year and this year.

The Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team said on Tuesday evening that an investigation team led by Inspector General Lt-Gen Aye Win was probing whether security forces followed their duties and regulations during the operations, which were intensified after militant attacks on Aug. 25.

“We will officially release the report upon [when] we have had comprehensive information,” the statement said.

The announcement follows an exodus of more than 500,000 self-identifying Rohingya Muslims from northern Rakhine State for Bangladesh since the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) Aug. 25 offensive on 30 police and army outposts.

In what it called a hunt for the militants, the army’s clearance operations drew international condemnation, with accusations of extrajudicial killings, rape, and the burning of Muslim villages.

The UN described the actions a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” with the Myanmar Army purposely driving out the Muslim population and destroying their property to prevent them from returning.

The information team’s announcement did not say when the investigation report would be released.

It would not be the first internal military investigation into alleged abuses. In February the military formed a five-member team led by Lt-Gen Aye Win in response to a UN report based on interviews in January with more than 200 self-identifying Rohingya refugees among some 70,000 who fled Myanmar for Bangladesh following militant attacks on police outposts in October.

The United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report stated security forces committed mass killings and gang rapes of Muslims in a campaign that “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity.

The state-run newspaper in May summarized the internal military inquiry, rejecting the allegations and saying the report was “based on lies and invented statements.”

Military investigators, among others, interviewed nearly 3,000 villagers from 29 villages and “wrote down” testimony from 408 villagers, 184 military officers and troops, it said.

It added that three low-ranking soldiers were jailed for minor offences, such as stealing a motorbike or beating up villagers in one incident.

With the new investigation focusing on operations after Aug. 25, it was unclear whether the report would include retrospective findings from last year.

Military spokesperson Maj Gen. Aung Ye Win was not available for comment on Friday.

On Thursday, Myanmar Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing told the Japanese ambassador for Myanmar that the army has conducted an investigation into any misconduct by security forces occurring after the Aug 25 attacks.

“Now we are trying to have a factually comprehensive report,” he said during the meeting with the ambassador in Naypyitaw, according to a report posted on the army’s chief Facebook. It did not mention a release date for the findings.

The latest investigation revealed that the security forces’ actions were within the legal framework, as they were strictly ordered to take action in accordance with law and used the lowest number of troops possible, according to the post.

In January, the government detained several police officers over a video showing policemen beating self-identifying Rohingya in November last year that went viral.

Three police officers were sentenced to two months detention in a jail for police over the video, according to AFP, with security forces saying those involved had “no intention” to cause harm.