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Myanmar's Military Is Still Committing War Crimes Against the Rohingya

An Amnesty International report says the army has carried out extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture.

by David Gilbert
May 29 2019, 11:27am

The Myanmar military units that committed war crimes against Rohingya Muslims in 2017 are still committing atrocities against the minority group today, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The report says the Myanmar military is guilty of committing new “war crimes,” including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture in its fight against ethnic Rakhine rebels. The report claims these offenses were committed by soldiers from the Rakhine-based Western Command, a military unit also implicated in atrocities against the Rohingya in August 2017.

The latest wave of violence exploded in Rakhine State in January when rebels from the Arkhan Army killed 13 police officers. In response, the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi ordered the military to “crush” the group — but Amnesty’s report claims the army went much further, killing innocent men, women and children.

“The new operations in Rakhine State show an unrepentant, unreformed and unaccountable military terrorizing civilians and committing widespread violations as a deliberate tactic,” Nicholas Bequelin, regional director for East and Southeast Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Amnesty is calling on the U.N. Security Council to refer the crimes to the International Criminal Court.

“The Security Council was established to respond to exactly these kinds of situations. It’s time it took its responsibility seriously,” Bequelin said.

In January, a senior UN human rights investigator called for Myanmar's army chief to be prosecuted for “genocide” against the Rohingya.

Basing its conclusions on interviews, satellite imagery, photographs and videos, Amnesty’s report documents atrocities conducted against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in the west of the country since January, including seven unlawful attacks that killed 14 civilians and injured at least 29 more.

In one incident, a seven-year-old ethnic Rakhine boy died after a mortar “that almost certainly was fired” by the Myanmar military exploded in Tha Mee Hla village. The explosion severely injured the boy and the military blocked his family from taking him to hospital for several hours. He died the following day.

In August 2017, a brutal military crackdown on the mainly Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians being killed, while more than 700,000 people fled the country in fear of their lives.

Some 30,000 people have fled their homes in response to the current spate of attacks, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Only seven members of the military were ever convicted for any of the atrocities committed in 2017. Last week, it was reported that those soldiers had been released in November, after serving just seven months of their 10-year sentence.

The journalists who reported the massacre were pardoned this month, after spending 16 months in jail.

Cover: A woman washes dishes at a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, southeastern Bangladesh, on Jan. 1, 2019. (Kyodo via AP Images)