The public admission of wrongdoing is the military's first since it launched “clearance operations” against ethnic Rohingya in August, prompting more than 650,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh in what the United Nations has called “ethnic cleansing.” A statement on the military commander-in-chief's Facebook page said the Rohingya found in the mass grave had threatened Buddhist villagers and were killed in retaliation.
The U.N. and other groups accuse the military of widespread atrocities against the Rohingya, including killings, rapes and the burning of homes. But the military has insisted that there has been no wrongdoing by any security forces.
The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma, has refused to accept Rohingya Muslims as a minority group, even though they have lived in the country for generations. They are widely called “Bengalis” and are accused of migrating illegally from Bangladesh. Rohingya people were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless.
The 10 bodies were found in December in a mass grave near a cemetery in Inn Din village. “It is true that both the villagers and security forces admitted they killed the 10 Bengali terrorists,” the military statement said. “The army will take charge of those who are responsible for the killings and who broke the rules of engagement. This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists.”
|Army investigation commission at the edge of Rohingya mass grave.|
(Tatmadaw investigation team issues following statement on their findings of discovery of unidentified bodies in Inndin Village cemetery in Maungtaw Township.)
Nay Pyi Taw (January 10): A press release has already been issued saying that acting on the information sent by an unidentified person that slain human bodies were buried in Inndin Village cemetery in Maungtaw Township, Rakhine State, a five-member investigation team led by Lt-Gen Aye Win from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army) had travelled to the location on 20 December 2017 to investigate if security forces were involved in the killings.
The team questioned witnesses—21 Tatmadawmen, three members of the border guard force, 13 members of No (8) Security Police Branch, six Inndin villagers and six civil servants—from 20 December 2017 to 2 January 2018.
According to the interrogations, Inndin Village-tract is made up of two native villages namely Inndin (Rakhine) and Peyon (Na-ta-La) and three Bengali villages. The two native ethnic villages have 176 houses and 840 people while three Bengali villages have 800 houses and about 6,000 people.
|Investigation commission interrogating a policeman.|
From 25 August the Bengalis from Inndin Bengali Villages had threatened Inndin native Villages from a distance days and nights yelling aloud and threatening with swords and spears. Playing through loud speakers, the Bengalis repeatedly chanted slogans in Bengali language, “We are tigers. We will eat the natives and Tatmadawmen. We will slit their throats and hold an Eid festival. We will soon own this land and all farms. We will occupy this region.”
The fearful native villagers panicked, abandoned their homes, and fled to the Inndin Buddhist monastery and stayed there. Because of their deteriorating situations local security forces had to rush there in time and established law and order again.
On 1 September about 200 Bengalis armed with swords and spears ambushed the local security forces on territory-clearing operation by the seaside. But the Bengali terrorist dispersed and fled when the security forces opened fire in the air. Ten Bengali terrorists were caught by the chasing soldiers and brought back to the Inndin Village School to interrogate.
Interrogation of the 10 being held at the Inndin village school in 1 September night revealed that they were part of ARSA terrorist group. They were said to have been persuaded by their village Imams to become the volunteer fighters for the ARSA.
|Investigation commission interrogating an army officer.|
Also the fact that the thinly spreaded security forces number is insufficient to guard and transport ten captured terrorists was one of reasons for the decision to kill them next day.
At about 8 am on 2 September, 10 Bengali terrorists detained at the Inndin school were taken to Peyon cemetery of Inndin Village. Inndin villagers guided the group to the cemetery under escort of security forces and 10 villagers including sons of U Maung Ni who was killed by Bengali terrorists. Villagers were armed with swords and carrying hoes.
At Peyon cemetery, the villagers dug a large grave in the ravine between two hillocks. Then, 10 Bengali terrorists were forced down into the hole and two sons of U Maung Ni and one other villager started attacking the Bengali terrorists with their swords. According to the witnesses the struggle broke out and the soldiers had to shoot and kill all ten Bengalis.
The investigations concluded that the native Inndin villagers had grievances against the Bengalis as they killed U Maung Ni for no reason other than he was one of the native villagers and also the Bengalis were threatening them natives with extreme violence. The case was basically a revenge attack of natives on the Bengali-Muslim invaders.
In the unfortunate incident, some villagers from Inndin Village and members of security forces confessed the unlawful killing of 10 Bengali terrorists. Accordingly, the action will be taken against the villagers who participated in the killings and the members of security forces who knowingly broke the Rules of Engagement.
It was found that the incident was not reported to the superior officers. Despite no direct involvement in the killings the responsible officials who are to control their subordinates will be necessarily exposed and taken action, and information on completion of action will be released.
YANGON: Myanmar's admission that soldiers were involved in the murder of 10 Muslims in September was an important step and the United States hoped it would be followed by more transparency and accountability, the U.S. ambassador said on Thursday.
The European Union and representatives of Muslim nations renewed calls for a broader international investigation into violence in the western state of Rakhine, after the military said on Wednesday its soldiers had killed 10 captured Rohingya Muslim "terrorists" at the beginning of September.
It was a rare acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during the operation it launched in northern Rakhine in response to Rohingya militant attacks on Aug. 25. Since then, more than 650,000 Muslim villagers have fled to Bangladesh.
"The military's acknowledgment that the security forces were involved in the killing of these 10 individuals is an important step," Ambassador Scot Marciel said in a forum on media freedom with journalism students and reporters in the main city Yangon.
"We hope it is followed up by more transparency and by holding those responsible accountable. I would stress this should be done, not as a favour to the international community, but because it's good for the health of Myanmar's democracy."
The United States has previously said the sweeping military counteroffensive amounted to "ethnic cleansing". Myanmar denies that, saying its forces were carrying out legitimate "clearance operations" against insurgents.
The military announced on Dec. 18 that a mass grave containing 10 bodies had been found at the coastal village of Inn Din, about 50 km (30 miles) north of the state capital Sittwe. The army appointed a senior officer to investigate. A statement from the office of the commander-in-chief on Wednesday said the military's investigation had found that members of the security forces had killed the 10.
The military said legal action would be taken against members of the security forces who violated their rules of engagement in killing the 10 suspected insurgents, and against ethnic Rakhine Buddhist villagers who were also involved.
It said the 10 had been captured after security forces had come under attack from around 200 insurgents. The captives should have been handed over to police, the army statement said, but with militants mounting continuous attacks and destroying two military vehicles, "there were no conditions to transfer the 10 Bengali terrorists to the police station and so it was decided to kill them".
Myanmar's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has no control over the military, but has faced fierce international criticism for failing to do more to protect the Rohingya. Asked about Wednesday's statement from the military, her spokesman Zaw Htay said Myanmar was committed to following the rule of law and took allegations of abuses seriously.
"The government is not issuing blanket denials of accusations of human rights violations issued by the international community," he said. "We need to get strong and reliable evidence so that we can investigate and take action according to the law."
CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION
The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation said the admission substantiated allegations made by human rights groups and the United Nations of ethnic cleansing against "the most persecuted Rohingya people".
The EU and Norway said in a statement issued in Yangon that the killings at Inn Din "confirm the urgent need for a thorough and credible investigation into all violent incidents in northern Rakhine State to ensure the accountability of those found responsible for committing atrocities".
Myanmar's armed forces have for decades been accused by human rights groups and Western governments of abuses in the country's myriad ethnic conflicts, but it has been rare for soldiers to be held accountable.