YANGON — Myanmar’s security forces are investigating the deaths of eight Rohingya in custody who were among hundreds arrested during a military crackdown in the north of Rakhine state, the government said Wednesday.
Hundreds of Rohingya are thought to have been killed during the army campaign launched four months ago after militants carried out deadly raids on police border posts.
Some 73,000 have fled to Bangladesh to escape the “clearance operations”, which the UN said have been used as a cover for security forces to butcher and rape civilians from the loathed Rohingya minority.
Several escapees interviewed by UN investigators in Bangladesh described being arrested and then beaten and tortured while in custody.
The government has pledged to investigate the claims after spending months rejecting similar allegations collected by rights groups and journalists.
Myanmar said this month at least 585 people have been arrested since the crackdown began, including eight who died from diseases while in custody.
Presidential spokesman U Zaw Htay said Wednesday two teams had arrived in Maungdaw to investigate complaints relating to the deaths, without giving further details.
“The police have formed an investigation team led by a senior police officer. Likewise, the military has formed an investigation team led by a Tatmadaw inspector general,” he told AFP.
“There have been complaints. The investigation teams have accepted (them) and are investigating whether those complaints are true or not.”
Myanmar’s persecution of the more than one million Rohingya who live in Rakhine State has long drawn international criticism.
But the recent crackdown has soured the elation surrounding the 2015 election of the country’s first civilian government in a generation, led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Malaysia has accused her of overseeing “genocide” of the Rohingya while the UN report said the violence in northern Rakhine is so severe it “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity.
As yet, there has been little fallout for security forces.
Three police officers were sentenced to two months’ detention by an internal police tribunal over a video showing them abusing Rohingya civilians, security sources told AFP this month.
Three senior police including a major were also demoted and their service terms were reduced for failing to enforce discipline.