Aung San
Yangon: The Myanmar military’s involvement in the deaths of 10 Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, admitted by the commander-in-chief, is just a fraction of the abuses for which security forces are culpable, rights groups say.

Following the discovery of a mass grave in Inn Dinn village, the military launched an investigation into the incident last month.

On Wednesday, it admitted that ethnic Rakhine villagers and security forces killed the 10 Royingya Muslims in the village on September 2 last year.

In separate statements, Fortify Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all described the admission as the “tip of the iceberg” and urged an international investigation.

Matthew Smith, co-founder and chief executive of Fortify Rights, said the group, based in Bangkok, had documented similar atrocities across the northern Rakhine State, where a military crackdown prompted by Rohingya militant attacks has driven more than 650000 Rohingya to flee the country.

“Massacres and mass graves have been a reality in all three townships in the north,” Smith said, referring to the areas of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, where the minority Muslim population lived.

Amnesty International had documented “overwhelming evidence” in villages across the area that the “military has murdered and raped Rohingya, and burnt their villages to the ground,” James Gomez, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

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”.

His words echoed a comment from the spokesperson from the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Myanmar yesterday, who said: “The (military) statement underscores the need for an independent investigation and media reporting on allegations of such human rights violations.”

The Myanmar government - headed by one-time democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi - has been accused by the US and the UN of “ethnic cleansing” in the military crackdown on Rohingya.

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

The military’s statement on Wednesday said due to ongoing attacks, security forces deemed it impossible to bring the 10 men to the police station and decided instead to execute the suspects at the village cemetery on the morning after their capture.

An ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mob dug a grave before setting upon the Rohingya with knives and farm tools, according to the military’s report.

Four members of the security forces also opened fire.

“It is appalling that soldiers have attempted to justify extrajudicial executions by saying they were needed as reinforcements elsewhere and did not know what to do with the men,” Gomez said.

“Such behaviour shows a contempt for human life which is simply beyond comprehension.”

Robertson warned that the admission did not represent a change of heart from the military.

“Noteworthy is the fact that no one but several low-level soldiers and a few villagers are implicated, as if this was an impromptu event rather than part of the inherent brutality built into the army’s clearance operations in northern Rakhine State,” he said. - dpa/African News Agency/ANA