Human rights groups have condemned an internal investigation by Myanmar’s military into alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, branding it a “whitewash” and demanding that the UN and independent investigators be given access to Rakhine State.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, driven out by a counter-insurgency campaign described by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein as a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.
No reason has been given for Major General Maung Maung Soe losing the Western Command in Rakhine State, where operation was launched.
The international media and other observers are denied access to the troubled areas of Rakhine where the Muslim community was concentrated.
On one tightly controlled trip, the BBC’s Jonathan Head said he saw Buddhist men setting a Rohingya village alight in front of armed police.
After touring camps in Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees are sheltering, Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she would raise accusations against the military with the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
On Monday the military posted the findings of its probe on the Facebook page of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief.
It found no cases where its soldiers had shot and killed Rohingya, raped women or tortured detainees. It denied torching Rohingya villages or using “excessive force”.
The probe estimated the number of fighters involved in the alleged August 25 attacks at over 10,000, more than doubling an earlier official estimate.
It claimed 376 “terrorists” were killed and no innocent people were among the victims.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to arrive today [Wednesday] and is expected to deliver a stern message to the generals, who appear to operate independently from the supposedly civilian government.
US State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams said: “We remain gravely concerned by continuing reports of violence and human rights abuses committed by Burmese security forces and vigilantes. Those responsible for abuses must be held accountable.”
The US Congress is discussing legislation imposing economic and travel sanctions on the generals and their business interests.
Amnesty International said the report was an attempted “whitewash”.
Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said: “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.”