Dhaka, Bangladesh
Myanmar military denies crimes against Rohingyas

Myanmar military denies crimes against Rohingyas

Myanmar probe a whitewash: Amnesty

Naypyitaw, Nov 14: Myanmar's military issued its most forceful denial yet that security forces committed atrocities during "clearance operations" in the west of the country, saying an internal investigation had absolved them of any wrongdoing in a crisis that has triggered the largest refugee exodus in Asia in decades, reports AP. The report contradicts consistent statements from ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees now in Bangladesh - some with gunshot wounds and severe burns - who have described massacres, rape, looting and the burning of hundreds of villages by Myanmar's army and civilian mobs. In a statement issued late Monday, the military said it had interviewed thousands of people during a monthlong investigation into the conduct of troops in western Rakhine state after Rohingya insurgents launched a series of deadly attacks there on Aug. 25. While the report acknowledged that battles against militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, had left 376 "terrorists" dead, it also claimed security forces had "never shot at the innocent Bengalis" and "there was no death of innocent people." Myanmar's government and most of the Buddhist majority say the members of the Muslim minority are "Bengalis" who migrated illegally from Bangladesh and do not acknowledge the Rohingya as a local ethnic group even though they have lived in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for generations. New York-based Human Rights Watch said the military's latest claims were "contrary to a large and growing body of evidence" documenting severe rights abuses in Myanmar. "The Burmese military's absurd effort to absolve itself of mass atrocities underscores why an independent international investigation is needed to establish the facts and identify those responsible," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The Burmese authorities have once again shown that they can't and won't credibly investigate themselves." The military said the investigation - which was led by Lt. Gen. Aye Win, inspector-general of the defense forces - showed that security forces did not use excessive force and abided by the army's rules of engagement. Myanmar's government does not allow independent journalists to travel freely to the parts of Rakhine state where most of the latest violence has taken place. The report comes just ahead of an expected visit Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is to hold talks with senior officials on the crisis. On Tuesday in Naypyitaw, the capital, Myanmar authorities began the first of five days of talks with Bangladesh border guard officials to discuss how to resolve the refugee crisis and other issues along their common frontier. BSS adds: Human rights group Amnesty International described the Myanmar military's internal investigation into violence against Rohingyas as a "whitewash" and called for giving UN and other independent observers unfettered access to the country. "With more than 600,000 women, men and children having fled Rakhine State in recent months fearing for their lives, there is overwhelming evidence that the military has murdered and raped Rohingyas and burned their villages to the ground," James Gomez, Amnesty International's Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific said in a statement. In response to findings released after the investigation into violence in northern Rakhine State since 25 August, the statement said: "Once again, Myanmar's military is trying to sweep serious violations against the Rohingya under the carpet." It also said after recording countless stories of horror and using satellite analysis to track the growing devastation "we can only reach one conclusion: these attacks amount to crimes against humanity". "The full extent of the violations against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities will not be known until the UN Fact-Finding Mission and other independent observers are given unfettered access to Myanmar, and in particular Rakhine State," it said. The statement said the Myanmar military has made clear it has no intention of ensuring accountability; it's now up to the international community to step up to ensure these appalling abuses do not go unpunished.

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