Myanmar Military Accused of Ethnic Cleansing

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Conflict between the Rohingya Muslims and the government of Myanmar have been ongoing for decades. Since 1982, the Rohingya have not been recognized as citizens, but rather illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They are a minority group that lives in the Northern state of Rakhine.

Rohingya Refugee, Photo Courtesy of Newsweek.

Conflict escalated in mid August after a group of militant Rohingya Muslims known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army or ARSA attacked 30 police posts and an army camp on the 25th of August. In retaliation the Myanmar government conducted operations to root out the militants and terrorists.

The response of the Myanmar military has been on a mass scale that primarily targeted citizens.   The Myanmar security forces looted, destroyed, and burned hundreds of Rohingya Villages. Men are shot and burned. Women are raped. Children and women are attacked brutally and killed. One mother reports that Myanmar soldiers threw her month old baby on the ground, killing him instantly. Another found her children beaten dead with a shovel. Around 100,000 Rohingya have been killed in Myanmar in this new wave of violence.

Overall more than 500,00 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to flee the violence. This migration is in addition to the 87,000 that fled from October 2016 to July 2017.

Myanmar officials deny these events, saying that it is all propaganda against the state.   A government representative goes further to say that all allegations brought to the government will be investigated and that state will protect any rape victims.

The UN Secretary-General said in a speech in regards to the violence, “I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law and recognize the right of return of all those who have had to leave the country.” The UN High Commissioner for Human rights said the crisis in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The Bangladesh Foreign Minister described the violence as genocide. The National commission for Human Rights in Bangladesh is considering compiling a case against Myanmar and the army in an international tribunal.

For more information, please see:

 Human Rights Watch – Burma: Military Commits Crimes Against Humanity – 25 September 2017

National Geographic – Myanmar’s Rohingya Are in Crisis – What You Need to Know – 29 September 2017

Newsweek – MYANMAR CRISIS: AS ARMY CLAIMS DISCOVERY OF ‘MASS HINDU GRAVE’ U.N. SEEKS AID FOR TRAUMATIZED ROHINGYA” – 25 September 2017

AlJazeera – UN urges Myanmar to end Rohingya violence – 14 September 2017

AlJazeera – Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya? – 28 September 2017

Mass Graves Discovered in Myanmar

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

RAKHINE, Myanmar – Amongst the ethnic conflict between Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar (Burma), a mass grave of 28 Hindus was found on 24 September 2017. The Myanmar army discovered the two pits near Yebawkya Village. The Information Committee confirmed the news later that day in a Facebook post.

Myanmar’s government response on Facebook to discovery of first mass grave. Photo Courtesy of BBC News.

The Rakhine state is the scene of tense ethnic fighting between the Hindus and Rohingya Muslims that has spanned several years. However, the state has been in a state of crisis since the Rohingya militants attacked 30 police posts. The government responded with a military offensive that the UN declares as an act of ethnic cleansing against the Muslims. The High Commissioner called the government attacks disproportionate.

Hindu refugees from an attack on 25 August 2017 stated that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)* militants stormed a Hindu village in the north of the Rakhine state, killing many. Others were escorted into the forest. A list of 102 missing people has been presented by Hindu women who fled the village. The Myanmar government is working to confirm this list.

In the meantime, the military is searching for more mass graves and bodies in the same area that original two graves were found. One day later, 25 September, the military found 17 more bodies 200 yards away from the mass graves. Members of the village were present to identify the bodies. In a statement from the government, the bodies were found blindfolded with slit throats and hands bound.

The Myanmar government has not released a formal statement on who committed the crime. The military supports the idea that those responsible are members of ARSA. ARSA militants fight for the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state. An ARSA spokesman denies these accusations calling them “lies,” and reminds the community that “ARSA has internationally pledged not to target civilians.”

Currently, the government keeps Myanmar closed to foreigners, journalists and media personal specifically. Therefore, obtaining a neutral and independent view is difficult.

It is important to note that the majority of those afflicted by the ethnic violence in the Rakhine state are the Rohingya Muslims. There is little sympathy for the group. They are not universally considered citizens of Myanmar, but rather classified as invaders from Bangladesh. The Myanmar government seeks to rid out Rohingya militants. However over 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past month to escape the government violence.

For more information, please see:

Newsweek – MYANMAR CRISIS: AS ARMY CLAIMS DISCOVERY OF ‘MASS HINDU GRAVE’ U.N. SEEKS AID FOR TRAUMATIZED ROHINGYA” – 25 September 2017

The New York Times – “Myanmar Follows Global Pattern in How Ethnic Cleansing Begins” – 18 September 2017

The Hindu – “Myanmar looks for more Hindu corpses as mass grave unearthed” – 25 September 2017

Reuters – “Myanmar finds more bodies in mass grave; UN seeks rapid aid increase” – 25 September 2017

The BBC – ” ‘Mass Hindu grave’ found in Myanmar’s Rakhine state” – 25 September 2017