YANGON—The Myanmar military has announced it will investigate and open court-martial proceedings against soldiers accused of mass killings during clearance operations against Rohingya insurgents in northern Rakhine State in 2017, as recommended by a government-backed commission.
Apparently responding to recommendations from the Union President and the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), a Myanmar government body assigned to investigate allegations of human rights violations and related issues in Rakhine, the military said on Friday that it had reviewed reports of atrocities in Maung Nu and Chut Pyin villages. According to a report by the ICOE released in January, at least 100 people were likely killed in Chut Pyin, while some 200 civilians are believed to have been killed in Maung Nu during military clearance operations in northern Rakhine in August 2017.
The commission made 22 recommendations in its report, urging the Myanmar government and the country’s military to continue their respective investigations. Myanmar President U Win Myint also forwarded the report to the country’s military chief for use in investigating and prosecuting the military personnel responsible.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in late 2017 after the government’s security forces launched clearance operations in northern Rakhine State in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police outposts in the area. Those who fled recalled arbitrary killings, rape and arson against their property by Myanmar security forces. UN investigators said the operations had “genocidal intent”. Both the Myanmar government and military have denied the accusations.
The ICOE submitted its final report with recommendations to President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in January. The 461-page document denied that killings and displacement of Rohingya Muslims during the clearance operations had “genocidal intent”, contradicting the findings of UN investigators. But the commission admitted that “war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place.”
Apart from the mass killings in Maung Nu and Chut Pyin, the report found that 19 civilians were killed at Gutar Pyin Village in Buthidaung Township and “nearly 500-600 civilians from Min Gyi Village in Maungdaw Township were killed in armed clashes between security forces and ARSA on Aug. 29, 2017.”
The military opened court martial proceedings against a group of soldiers over the Gutar Pyin killings in November last year.
On Friday, in its first public response to the president and the ICOE, the military said, “The report is being reviewed by the Tatmadaw [the military] in great detail,” adding that it would release a statement on the Gutar Pyin court-martial soon. It also said the military had reviewed the incidents in Maung Nu and Chut Pyin.
“The Court of Inquiry will investigate such incidents and the court-martial will follow in accordance with the law and in line with the processes of military justice,” the military said in the statement.
The announcement didn’t specifically mention the mass killing of an estimated 500-600 civilians in Min Gyi Village. However, it quotes the Office of the Judge Advocate General as saying that the remaining incidents mentioned in the ICOE report are still being reviewed.
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