March 17, 2018

Myanmar's Suu Kyi says army admission on killings a positive step

13 January 2018, 12:59 | Kara Nash

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A Rohingya refugee reacts while holding his dead son after crossing the Naf river from Myanmar into Bangladesh in Whaikhyang on Oct. 9 2017

Myanmar's admission that soldiers were involved in the murder of 10 Muslims in September was an important step and the United States hoped it would be followed by more transparency and accountability, the USA ambassador said on Thursday.

Government forces had been conducting a "clearance operation" in a region about 30 miles north of the state capital of Sittwe when "200 Bengali terrorists attacked using sticks and swords". It comes as two reporters for Reuters news agency face trial for receiving secret documents reportedly related to the massacre.

Ten Rohingya in the group were captured and executed, according to an internal investigation that was launched after a mass grave was located last month. According to the statement, there were "no conditions" to hand the ten captured "bengali terrorists" over to the police, so "it was made a decision to kill them".

Myanmar insists that the Rohingya minority are illegal migrants from Bangladesh, hence the references to "Bengalis" in official statements.

More than 600,000 Rohingya, who are not recognised by the Myanmar government as one of the country's many ethnic groups, have fled to Bangladesh since August past year, when violence between armed Rohingya and Myanmar security forces prompted a severe crackdown.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, urged the Myanmar government to "get serious about accountability by allowing the UN-appointed Fact Finding Commission to enter the country".

In the past, the military has retaliated against Rohingya villages following such attacks.

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The 10 bodies were found in December in a mass grave near a cemetery in Inn Din village.

Angry ethnic Rakhine Buddhist villagers, who had lost relatives in militant attacks, wanted to kill the captives, and stabbed them after forcing them into a grave on the outskirts of the village. "Action will be taken against the villagers... and the security force members who violated the rules of engagement according to the law", the statement said, adding that those who failed to report the incident would be similarly punished.

Villagers had dug a pit and the men were ordered to enter it, where they were shot by the security forces.

The military denied all accusations of significant human rights abuses in a report released in November following an investigation.

Although the Rohingya consider themselves an ethnic minority of Myanmar, numerous Buddhist majority consider them illegal foreigners from Bangladesh.

Amnesty International described the statement as "a sharp departure from the army's policy of blanket denial of any wrongdoing".

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