Thirteen Burmese military chiefs, including the most powerful government figure in Myanmar, should be investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, according to Amnesty International.
In a 200-page document, based on 400 interviews, satellite photos and leaked military documents, Amnesty accuses Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other generals of planning the campaign of ethnic cleansing that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of Rakhine State into Bangladesh after August 25 last year.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and unknown numbers tortured and raped after reported attacks on security posts by a militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
Nine months on from much of the violence, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have begun giving birth.
After months of denying the abuses were happening, Myanmar recently established a committee to investigate, although observers expect another whitewash.
Min Aung Hlaing, under the military-drafted 2008 constitution, has control over three key ministries, home affairs, border security and defence, and appoints 25 per cent of the parliament to block any constitutional change.
“The explosion of violence – including murder, rape, torture, burning and forced starvation – perpetrated by Myanmar’s security forces in villages across northern Rakhine State was not the action of rogue soldiers or units,” said Matthew Wells of Amnesty International. “There is a mountain of evidence that this was part of a highly orchestrated, systematic attack on the Rohingya population.
“Those with blood on their hands, right up the chain of command to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, must be held to account for their role in overseeing or carrying out crimes against humanity,” Wells continued.
Amnesty called on the United Nations Security Council to refer the atrocities to the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty details torture, beatings, waterboarding, burning and mutilation of genitals and starvation, used against Rohingya men and boys, even before the supposed attacks on 25 August. Landmines were reportedly laid to prevent them from returning home.
“I was standing with my hands tied behind my head, then they . . . put a candle under my penis,” one Rohingya man was quoted saying by Amnesty. “[A] big man was giving orders . . . [it] blistered . . . They were saying, ‘Tell the truth or you will die.’ ”
In Chut Pyin village, troops purportedly killed most men and older boys and gang-raped women in the village school.
“I saw so many bodies in front of the school,” a female witness told Amnesty. “Some had been shot, some had been cut. All of the dead bodies were bound. There were bullets on the ground everywhere. There was so much blood. The dead bodies were like stones in a field. I thought I would be sick.”
Vast Rohingya camps have developed in Bangladesh. Picture credit: Flickr