Osman Gani, 53, a Rohingya from the Buthidaung area of Rakhine who is living in Kutupalong refugee camp, speaks about military atrocities against Rohingya on Dec. 6, 2017. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)
The Myanmar military’s admission of a mass killing of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State has sparked fury and demands for a proper probe and justice from refugees, rights activists and Church officials in Bangladesh.
On Jan. 10, the military issued a statement admitting for the very first time that its soldiers and Buddhist villagers murdered 10 captured Muslim “terrorists” at Inn Din village in September last year during a counter-insurgency operation.
"Villagers and members of the security forces have confessed that they committed murder,” the military said.
The crackdown saw hundreds of civilian Rohingya killed, dozens of women raped and hundreds of Rohingya villages burned by the military and extremist Buddhists.
The violence forced more 650,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh for safety
Fury and call for justice
“The military is a mass murderer and it must face prosecution and punishment. Admitting killing 10 Rohingya is a bad joke and an eyewash attempt,” Muhammad Saker, 25, a Rohingya refugee living in Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, told ucanews.com.
Saker came to Bangladesh from the Maungdaw area of Rakhine on Aug. 30 with his 15-member extended family.
“Due to international pressure, the military is seeking to save face by putting a few soldiers on trial to escape genocide charges. Every senior officer and foot solider responsible for violence against Rohingya must be held, every case must be properly investigated and they must face exemplary punishment through acceptable trial,” Saker said.
A Rohingya woman injured during the military crackdown in Rakhine last August receives treatment at Chittagong Medical College Hospital on Sept. 16, 2017. (Photo by Piyas Biswas/ucanews.com)
Osman Gani, 53, from the Buthidaung area, said he saw with his own eyes the military and Buddhists killing 20 Rohingya by firing and stabbing.
“The military killed thousands of Rohingya like animals. Admitting killing 10 does not mean anything. We want to see the military as whole face trial for crimes against humanity committed against Rohingya,” said Gani, who has been living in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar since October with his family.
Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, called for strong international pressure for justice over atrocities against Rohingya.
“The world knows what the military has done to Rohingya and now, by admitting the crime, the military is trying to save face. The international community should not be complacent but continue to press for a fair trial and justice over violence against Rohingya,” Bishop Rozario told ucanews.com.
Rights activist Nasiruddin, former secretary of Dhaka-based Odhikar (Rights), echoed those views.
“For too long the international community looked aside when Rohingya continued to face persecution and they have only started to speak out when these people were facing genocide. The international community is divided and not doing much to help Myanmar,” he said.
“Admitting killings won’t signify anything if the world does not act properly to ensure justice and end the Rohingya’s plight.”
Rohingya mass grave in Inn Din
On Dec. 18, the Myanmar military announced that a mass grave containing 10 bodies had been found in Inn Din, 50 kilometers north of Rakhine capital Sittwe.
A senior army officer who investigated the case found that soldiers had killed the 10. The military’s Jan. 10 statement said action would be taken again them.
Security forces were conducting a “clearance operation” in the area on Sept. 1 when “200 Bengali terrorists attacked using stick and swords,” according to a statement on the Facebook page of Myanmar military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.
Although Rohingya have lived in Rakhine for centuries, the military and many Buddhists in Myanmar refer to them as “Bengalis,” implying they are recent illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.