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Myanmar soldiers confess to 'genocide' against Rohingya

2 soldiers who fled Myanmar admit they killed Rohingya Muslims, buried them in mass graves, raped women

Busra Selvi Ogutcen   | 11.09.2020
Myanmar soldiers confess to 'genocide' against Rohingya

ANKARA

Two Myanmar army soldiers have confessed that they killed Rohingya Muslims, buried them in mass graves, and raped the women.

According to The New York Times, the two soldiers, who fled from Myanmar last month, were taken Monday to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands, where an investigation into crimes against humanity committed by Myanmar is being conducted.

The soldiers, whose video testimonies were taken there, confessed that they took part in the killing and burial of Rohingya Muslims in the towns of Buthidaung and Maungdaw in the Rakhine state.

Their testimonies support widespread claims that the Myanmar army is trying to eradicate Rohingya Muslims.

Myo Win Tun, 33, one of the soldiers who testified, said that in August 2017, he got an order from his seniors: "shoot everyone you see and hear".

He said he obeyed the order and took part in the murder of 30 Rohingya Muslims and their burial in mass graves near a base station and a military base.

He also confessed that they buried eight women, seven children and 15 men in a grave.

"We shot everyone without exception. We shot the Muslim men in the foreheads and pushed their bodies into the pits with our feet."

He also confessed to raping one woman.

Acknowledging that he was committing the inhumane acts based on racial discrimination, he said his superior Col. Than Htike ordered them to "wipe out the Rohingya Muslims".

"I took part in the murder and burial of 30 innocent Muslim children, women, and men," he said.

Kill all children or adults you see

Zaw Naing Tun, a 30-year-old former Buddhist monk, confessed that when 30 Rohingya Muslims were killed, he was in a battalion in a village nearby, and added that he received the instructions of 'kill all the children or adults you see' from his seniors.

"We wiped out about 20 villages [of Rohingya] from the map," he said, adding that he buried the bodies in a mass grave.

He said that with the soldiers of the battalion he was in, they killed 80 Rohingya Muslims.

Zaw Naing Tun said they attacked 20 villages in Maungdaw, including Doe Tan, Ngan Chaung, Kyet Yoe Pyin, Zin Paing Nyar, and U Shey Kya, adding that together with four other soldiers from his battalion in Zin Paing Nyar he killed seven Rohingya Muslims.

I kept watching while women were raped

Zaw Naing Tun said that after capturing and killing 10 unarmed people, they buried them in a mass grave in the north of the village.

Claiming that he did not commit sexual violence crime because his military rank was too low, Zaw Naing Tun said he kept watching while other soldiers were raping Rohingya women.

These soldiers said that the order of "Shoot everyone you see and hear" was given by Col. Than Htike, Capt. Tun Tun and Sgt. Aung San Oo, who were working in Buthidaung and Maungdaw areas at that time.

So, for the first time, members of the Myanmar army (Tatmadaw) openly admitted that they took part in the massacre of Rohingya Muslims, which the UN officials described as a genocide campaign.

Meanwhile, numerous villagers from Arakan independently confirmed the location of the mass graves, and these locations coincided with the places the soldiers indicated in their testimony. The mass graves, which the Myanmar government has repeatedly denied, can also be used as evidence in the investigation and other legal processes at the ICC.

Rohingya Muslims living in a village adjacent to the area of the 552 Light Infantry Battalion base identified soldier Myo Win Tun, and gave detailed information about the location of two mass graves in the area.

The two soldiers in question have not been detained, but their fate has not yet been announced.

Eyewitness Rohingyas spoke about atrocity

Basha Miya, a Rohingya Muslim living in camps in Bangladesh, said her grandmother was killed and thrown into one of these mass graves with 16 people from Thin Ga Net village. The Thin Ga Net village was later burned down by Myanmar soldiers and wiped out from the map.

Miya said that when she remembered her grandmother, she cried from time to time and felt bad for not having a proper funeral for her.

Rohingya eyewitnesses said the soldiers brought the bulldozers to cover the bodies after they dumped the bodies into mass graves.

Bashir Ahmed from the village of Zin Paing Nyar said soldiers came to their village on Aug. 26, 2017 and opened fire on everyone who came in their way.

"They burned down our homes. There was nothing left," Ahmed said.

Little justice better than no justice

Matthew Smith, the chairman of the Bangkok-based human rights organization Fortify Rights, said it was a tremendous moment for Rohingya Muslims and the people of Myanmar striving for justice.

Smith said these soldiers may be the first criminals from Myanmar, and first insider witnesses at the ICC.

Payam Akhavan, an international legal expert at McGill University in Canada and also a former adviser for Bangladesh in the investigation of Rohingya Muslims at the ICC, emphasized that two soldiers should be held accountable to prevent the 600,000 Rohingya in Myanmar from being subjected to a similar atrocity.

"Leaving unpunished is not an option. A little bit of justice is better than no justice to anyone," Akhavan said.

In August 2017, the 353 and 565 Light Infantry Battalions conducted "cleansing operations" in Buthidaung and Maungdaw.

Ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

In 2012, clashes broke out in Arakan between Buddhists and Muslims. Thousands of people, mostly Muslims, were massacred and hundreds of homes and work places were set on fire.

On Aug. 25, 2017, Myanmar military and Buddhist mobs launched massive crackdown on Rohingya villagers in the Rakhine state, on the pretext of security issue following a series of terror attacks on border security posts. 

According to the report published by the Ontario International Development Agency in August 2018, at least 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by the Myanmar army since Aug. 25, 2017. While the soldiers threw in fire 34,000 Rohingya Muslims, they also battered 114,000 Rohingya.

According to the report, military members raped 18,000 women.

International human rights organizations -- with satellite images they have published -- have proven that hundreds of villages have been destroyed.

The UN and international human rights organizations call violence against Rohingya Muslims "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide".

Myanmar soldiers confess to gang-raping Rakhine woman

* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev

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