Burma Army Says Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing Is Fake News.
The Burmese armed forces have published an internal investigation into the actions of its soldiers and concluded that allegations of murder, rape, arson and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims are “made-up news”.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh since late August, when small-scale attacks by Rohingya militants prompted a massive reprisal by the Burmese army, police and civilian vigilantes. The response was described by Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the United Nations human rights chief, as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. On Sunday a UN official returned from the refugees’ camps in Bangladesh to report “gang rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation, and sexual slavery in military captivity”.
The armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, rejected the accounts of refugees. “Security forces did not commit shooting at innocent villagers and sexual violence and rape cases against women,” it claimed in a report which it said drew on more than 2,000 interviews with Rohingya still in Rakhine State. “They did not arrest, beat and kill the villagers. They did not totally destroy, rob and take property, gold and silver wares, vehicles and animals . . . They did not set fire to the mosques.” It added: “While staying in a refugee camp of the other country, [Rohingya militants] made up news about Myanmar’s Tatmadaw.”
The report was met with scorn by human rights groups. James Gomez of Amnesty International said: “There is overwhelming evidence that the military has murdered and raped Rohingya and burnt their villages to the ground. After recording countless stories of horror and using satellite analysis to track the devastation we can only reach one conclusion: these attacks amount to crimes against humanity.” The violence continues to provoke anger towards Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has supported the armed forces. On Monday Theresa May said: “This is a major humanitarian crisis which looks like ethnic cleansing . . . the Burmese authorities — and especially the military — must take full responsibility.”
António Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, called for “unhindered humanitarian access to affected communities and the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return for those who fled”.
One leader who has been silent is President Trump, who did not address the crisis on his 12-day tour of five countries in Asia, which ended yesterday. Credit: Richard Lloyd Parry for The Times, 15 November 2017.
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