RANGOON – A team of five high-ranking police officials will investigate allegations of widespread human rights abuses committed by security operations in Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The move came after a United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report alleged widespread arbitrary detention, gang rape, arson, and extrajudicial killings of Muslim Rohingya—a group labeled as ‘Bengali’ by the government—by Burmese security forces.
Police Adjutant-General Chairman Brig-Gen Win Tun will head the enquiry, joined by Brig-Gen Nay Win, Col Nay Tun, Lt-Col Maung Maung Lwin as well as Col Khin Maung Aye who is Deputy Commander of the Criminal Investigation Department Secretary, read a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs released Sunday.
The ministry has instructed the police force to follow “international standards” and to complete its mission “in accordance with the Criminal Codes and police manual,” according to the statement.
The statement said that that if the departmental enquiry found that members of the police force had violated human rights then they would be charged under Police Disciplinary Law and that action is already being taken against those “who failed to follow the instructions/provisions,” without elaborating on specific cases.
In late December, selfie-style footage of police kicking and beating Rohingya in Koe Tan Kauk village of Rathedaung Township in early November led to authorities detaining four police involved.
Today, Reuters reported that five policemen have been sentenced to two months’ detention and three senior officers had been demoted over the incident.
The Irrawaddy contacted President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay for confirmation, but he was unavailable for comment.
Lt-Col. Tin Win of the Burmese police force in Naypyidaw said that the investigation is ongoing and his department had not received any official report from the relevant department about legal punishment.
Last week, also in response to the OHCHR report, the Burma Army formed its own investigation team tasked to whether check soldiers operated “within the framework of law” and “to ensure that security forces stay away from using excessive force and committing human rights violations.”
In a statement it reaffirmed that “legal action will be taken against anyone who breaks any of the directives.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said that the Burmese government was “deeply concerned” about the OHCHR’s findings and “considers the allegations contained in the report [to be] very serious in nature.”
Nearly 70,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled security operations in northern Arakan State to Bangladesh, according to UN estimates. Last week, Reuters reported that two UN officials believed that more than 1,000 Rohingya may have been killed in the crackdown.