Myanmar to hold court martial after Rohingya atrocities probe

Army says court martial proceedings are under way after inquiry at village said to have been a Rohingya mass grave site.

    Rohingya refugee Mohammad Karim, 26, centre, shows a mobile video of Gu Dar Pyin's massacre to other refugees in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh [File: Manish Swarup/AP]
    Rohingya refugee Mohammad Karim, 26, centre, shows a mobile video of Gu Dar Pyin's massacre to other refugees in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh [File: Manish Swarup/AP]

    Myanmar's army says rare court martial proceedings are under way following an investigation into atrocities in Rakhine state, two years after a brutal military crackdown forced more than 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.

    In a statement on Saturday, the office of Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing said a military court that visited the northwestern state found soldiers had shown "weakness in following instructions in some incidents" at a village said to have been a massacre site of the Rohingya, a Muslim-majority, long-persecuted minority in Myanmar. 

    No additional details were provided.

    In 2018, The Associated Press news agency reported the existence of at least five graves of Rohingya in the village, Gu Dar Pyin, in the township of Buthidaung.

    The report described gruesome violence at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes, who allegedly attacked villagers with guns, knives, rocket launchers and grenades before dumping bodies into pits and dousing them with acid.  

    Estimates from survivors in Bangladesh put the death toll in the hundreds, the report said.

    But government officials at the time said 19 "terrorists" had died and their bodies were "carefully buried".

    On Sunday, military spokesman Tun Tun Nyi told Reuters news agency the investigation's findings were confidential.

    "We don't have the right to know about it," he said by telephone. "They will release another statement about it when the procedure is finished."

    'Genocidal intent'

    The military court, comprising a major-general and two colonels, was formed in March to respond to accusations of mass killings, rape and arson by the security forces made by the United Nations and rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

    It visited Rakhine state twice in July and August this year.

    Myanmar forces launched their offensive in Rakhine state in August 2017 following a series of attacks by Rohingya fighters on security posts near the Bangladesh border.

    Last year, a UN fact-finding mission said the military campaign was orchestrated with "genocidal intent", and recommended charging Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals with the "gravest crimes under international law".

    Myanmar has denied the accusations. A previous military investigation in 2017 exonerated the security forces of any crimes. But in January 2018, Ming Aung Hlaing said soldiers and residents of Inn Din village admitted to killing 10 Rohingya there.

    Four officers and three soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labour over the incident, but a prison official said in May that they were "no longer in detention".

    The soldiers spent less time behind bars than two Reuters journalists who exposed the massacre and were convicted for violating state secrets.

    They were released earlier this year in a pardon after more than 500 days in jail.

    Myanmar is facing growing international calls for accountability over the Rakhine campaign.

    The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary examination into the violence, while a panel formed by Myanmar that includes Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo and Japan's former UN envoy, Kenzo Oshima, is due to publish its findings.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies