A Myanmar soldier guards an area at Sittwe airport in Rakhine State on September 20, 2018. (AFP)

Myanmar finds soldiers guilty in Rohingya atrocities court martial

By AFP

YANGON — Three Myanmar military officers were found guilty by a court martial investigating atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in conflict-ridden Rakhine State, the army announced Tuesday.

The rare action against military members came as Myanmar faces charges of genocide at the United Nations’ top court over a brutal 2017 crackdown against the Rohingya.

Some 750,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh with accounts of widespread murder, rape and arson.

Rights groups accused security forces of committing atrocities in various villages, including Gu Dar Pyin, where they alleged at least five shallow mass graves had been found.

Estimates from survivors in Bangladesh put the death toll in the hundreds. 

After initially denying the allegations, the military started court martial proceedings in September, admitting there had been “weakness in following instructions” in the village. 

The commander-in-chief’s office announced Tuesday the court martial had “confirmed the guilty verdict” and sentenced three officers. 

No details were provided on the perpetrators, their crimes, or sentences. 

Rights groups Amnesty International called the lack of transparency on the court martial “alarming”. 

“Closed door trials shrouded in secrecy, and marred by a lack of independence in the military judiciary system, are not the way to end military impunity in Myanmar,” said Amnesty’s Ms Ming Yu Hah. 

The government has largely supported the army’s justification of the 2017 operations as a means of rooting out insurgents.

Civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi admitted at the International Court of Justice in December, however, that disproportionate force may have been used.

The military has maintained any atrocities were committed by a few maverick individuals. 

UN investigators also found evidence of extrajudicial killings in other Rakhine villages, Maung Nu and Chut Pyin. 

The army chief’s office said Tuesday a court of inquiry would “continue to investigate” events at both villages.  

In 2018 the military sentenced members of the security forces to a decade in prison for the killing of 10 Rohingya in Inn Din village, but they were released after serving less than a year. 

Two journalists who exposed the massacre were detained for more than 16 months before they were pardoned following global outcry. 

The state remains a flashpoint of ethnic and religious tensions, and the military has been locked in battle since January last year with the Arakan Army, which is fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Intensified fighting over the weekend drew alarm from the UN on Sunday, who called for both sides to respect international humanitarian law as thousands more civilians fled their homes from artillery shelling.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Ahead of the vote, it’s still ‘Myanmar vs the world’
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s election address through state media doesn’t just present Myanmar and its government, perversely, as the real victims of the Rohingya crisis, it also contradicts what she is trying to tell the rest of the world.
Keeping the faith: Can the USDP retain its Dry Zone stronghold?
Buddhist nationalism and a focus on rural voters helped the USDP retain a rare stronghold in southern Mandalay Region, but cracks are emerging ahead of this year’s vote.

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar