Myanmar’s military is guilty of committing new “war crimes”, extrajudicial killings and torture in its fight against ethnic Rakhine rebels, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
The armed forces have deployed thousands of troops and heavy artillery across northern Rakhine state in recent months where Arakan Army (AA) rebels are fighting for more autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
The state was also the scene of the military’s bloody crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim community in 2017. That campaign pushed some 740,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh in violence UN investigators say warrants prosecution of top generals for “genocide”.
The new operations in Rakhine State show an unrepentant, unreformed and unaccountable military terrorising civilians, said regional director Nicholas Bequelin.
Amnesty said Wednesday it had “new evidence” that Myanmar’s military is now “committing war crimes and other human rights violations” against the ethnic Rakhine, listing extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and enforced disappearances.
Access to the conflict area is heavily restricted but details of civilian deaths have emerged over recent weeks and months. But the army has confirmed it shot dead six detainees late last month in the village of Kyauk Tan.
Myanmar Military Continues War Crimes
Amnesty’s report is based on scores of interviews with people from various ethnic groups, photographs, videos and satellite imagery.
The 46-page report titled, ‘No one can protect us’: War crimes and abuses in Myanmar’s Rakhine State’, concludes that the military is responsible for conducting extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. Since the military operation is still underway, it is likely that more crimes will be committed.
It documents seven unlawful attacks that killed 14 civilians and injured dozens more, saying notorious infantry units have been deployed against the ethnic Rakhine. Some Rohingya Muslims who have remained in the area have also been killed.
“The new operations in Rakhine State show an unrepentant, unreformed and unaccountable military terrorising civilians,” said regional director Nicholas Bequelin.
Amnesty also criticised the government for choosing to “remain silent” while supplies of medicine, food and humanitarian relief remain blocked by authorities.
Bequelin added, “Authorities are compounding the misery of civilians by blocking the supply of medicine, food and humanitarian relief to those in need, including children. Civilians in Rakhine State are paying the heaviest price from the military’s assaults and their aftermath – yet the government continues to choose to remain silent about this spiralling crisis.”
The report highlighted that multiple Rakhine ethnic communities have suffered the recent surge of war crimes committed by the Myanmar army, it is the Rohingya who have suffered the most.
Amnesty recorded that on 3rd April, a military helicopter rained down fire on Rohingya laborers working in the bamboo fields, resulting in the death of six men and boys, while 13 others were critically injured.
A survivor of the attack shared the ordeal with Amnesty, “The helicopter came from behind the mountain. Within minutes it fired rockets. I was running for my life thinking about my family and how I would survive.”
Myanmar Authorities Block Humanitarian Aid
Army spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun denied all allegations, saying the military’s operations were within the law and they “avoided harming civilians”. “This was an operation to clear terrorists. We were careful not to commit any war crimes,” he told AFP. Amnesty also criticised the government for choosing to “remain silent” while supplies of medicine, food and humanitarian relief remain blocked by authorities.
The report by Amnesty highlights that the recent surge of violence has displaced more than 30,000 people, however, the authorities of Myanmar, instead of assisting the displaced and tortured, has blocked humanitarian access to the war-ravaged areas.
Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director for Southeast Asia at Amnesty International, stressed that with “Myanmar’s military committing atrocities as brazenly as ever”.
In an unprecedented move after the AA attacked police posts in January, Aung San Suu Kyi’s government ordered the army to “crush” the rebels. The government spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Although the military was the main perpetrator, AA insurgents have also “committed abuses against civilians”, Amnesty said, alleging they have sent letters with bullets to local administrators and business people. “I can firmly say it does not happen,” AA spokesman Khine Thu Kha told AFP by phone, denying the claims.
Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director for Southeast Asia at Amnesty International, stressed that with “Myanmar’s military committing atrocities as brazenly as ever”, it is evident that the international community needs to intensify its pressure to put an end to these horrific war crimes.
Bequelin stressed, “Again and again, the international community has failed to stop the Myanmar military’s crimes and protect the civilian population. The Security Council was established to respond to exactly these kinds of situations, it’s time it took its responsibility seriously.”
AFP with additional input by GVS news desk.