Myanmar begins court martial after probe into Rohingya atrocities

Army blames soldiers and officers deployed to one village saying they were 'weak in following rules of engagement'.

    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape a Myanmar military offensive launched in August 2017 [File: Ye Aung Thu/AFP]
    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape a Myanmar military offensive launched in August 2017 [File: Ye Aung Thu/AFP]

    Myanmar's military began a rare court martial of soldiers on Tuesday following a probe into alleged atrocities during a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, a spokesman said, as the country prepares to face genocide charges at an international court in The Hague.

    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape a Myanmar military offensive launched in August 2017 that United Nations investigators described as having been executed with genocidal intent.

    Soldiers, police, and Buddhist villagers are alleged to have razed hundreds of villages in the remote western Rakhine state, torturing Rohingya as they fled, carrying out mass killings and gang rapes.

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    Myanmar said the army was fighting a legitimate counterinsurgency campaign against armed groups who attacked security posts.

    Spokesman Zaw Min Tun told Reuters news agency via telephone that soldiers and officers from a regiment deployed to Gu Dar Pyin village, the site of an alleged massacre of Rohingya, were "weak in following the rules of engagement".

    In a statement published on its website, the army said the soldiers being court martialled were involved in "accidents" in Gu Dar Pyin.

    Mass graves denied

    The Associated Press (AP) reported the existence of at least five mass graves in the village through interviews with survivors in refugee camps in Bangladesh and time-stamped mobile phone videos.

    Myanmar denied the allegations made in the AP news agency report.

    The country is facing a wave of international pressure over its treatment of the Rohingya, with cases filed against it at courts around the world.

    Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of a Nobel peace prize for her past defiance of a military military government that ruled the country for decades, is set to travel to The Hague for hearings starting in December at the International Court of Justice.

    The Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African state, lodged a lawsuit accusing the country of genocide after winning the support of the 57-nation Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

    Myanmar says the international efforts violate its sovereignty and has promised to carry out its own investigations into the allegations.

    But few have been punished so far. Seven soldiers jailed for 10 years for killing 10 Rohingya men and boys in the village of Inn Din were granted early release last November, after serving less than a year in prison.

    Two Reuters news agency journalists who uncovered the murders spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets, before being released in a presidential amnesty in May.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency