The soldiers were reportedly freed in November 2018, meaning they served less than one year of their 10-year prison sentence for the massacre of a group of men and boys at Inn Din village near the Bangladesh border.
They served less prison time than the two Reuters reporters who uncovered the killings. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo spent more than 16 months in jail on charges of obtaining state secrets in a politically motivated court case.
The generals have total control over the judiciary under the military-drafted 2008 constitution.
The two were released in a presidential amnesty earlier this month.
The authorities only launched a probe into the Inn Din killings after the Reuters story was published.
The news agency’s reporters also revealed the soldiers’ release from prison this week.
National League for Democracy State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refused to speak out in the reporters’ defence, saying they were in prison because they broke the law.
Her opposition to freeing Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo was well known among the diplomatic community who repeatedly urged her to release them. She purportedly became angry when foreigners raised the reporters’ case.
Internationally, the Rakhine State massacre and the jailing of the journalists investigating it, is seen by observers as indicative of the army’s role in the treatment of the vilified Muslim-majority community.
Win Naing, the chief warden at Rakhine’s Sittwe prison, told the media their punishments were reduced by the military.
Reuters gathered testimonies from a range of participants in the massacre, including Buddhist villagers who confessed to killing their neighbours and torching their homes. Testimonies from the paramilitary police also directly implicated the military.
The Rohingya males were seeking safety on a beach when they were targeted after their village was raided, Reuters said.
Buddhist villagers said they were told to dig a grave and at least two of the Rohingya males were hacked to death by their neighbours.
It was reportedly the first time soldiers had been implicated with photographic evidence.
The seven soldiers were the only personnel punished over the 2017 crackdown in Rakhine, which drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. United Nations investigators said the violence was carried out with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings, gang rapes and systematic arson.
Myanmar denies the allegations and repeatedly used the seven jailed soldiers as evidence that the armed forces do not enjoy impunity.
The persecution of the Rohingya has shattered Myanmar’s international image. Picture credit: Flickr