Amnesty International says it has evidence linking 13 Myanmar officials to crimes against humanity for their part in operations against the country’s Rohingya minority.
The officials are said to include the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and eight other senior military officers.
The rights group provided details in a report released on Wednesday. The report is called “We Will Destroy Everything: Military Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine States, Myanmar”.
"Make absolutely no mistake, these are crimes against humanity,” said Amnesty’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan. “We are talking about rape, murder, torture, forced starvation, the use of land mines, and targeted burning of villages. These are crimes which are so serious that they should be referred to the International Criminal Court."
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state since August 25. They began leaving after Rohingya militants launched attacks against state security forces. Those attacks led to military action against suspected militants and their supporters.
The United Nations has described the operation as well-organized and systematic, which it said is a "textbook example" of ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar officials have said the campaign is aimed at fighting terrorism.
Fleeing Rohingya have told stories of state security forces burning their villages in northern Rakhine state. They have accused the military of rape, killings, stealing and setting land mines to prevent them from returning home.
In preparing the report, Amnesty researchers spoke with more than 400 people, including with Rohingya in central Rakhine state and at refugee camps in Bangladesh. The researchers also collected victim and eyewitness reports of abuse and examined satellite images and documents.
"What we know from this is that the atrocities committed against the Rohingya implicate every level of the Myanmar military," said Matthew Wells, Amnesty's Senior Crisis Adviser.
He said at least two of the military teams sent to Rohingya areas had been linked to war crimes in Shan state. Wells added that military leaders chose to send soldiers known for violence against ethnic minorities.
The Amnesty researchers also provided details of abuses by Rohingya militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The list includes over 20 targeted killings of Rohingya suspected of being government informants, as well as deadly attacks on Hindu communities.
VOA was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations for comment on the report.
Amnesty said it sent a letter to the country's de facto head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi. It said the letter was received in Napitaw, the capital, on June 13, but that the group has yet to get any reaction.
Commission of inquiry
After months of denying that abuses were happening, Myanmar officials recently established a committee to investigate the situation. Amnesty said it worries this committee will "whitewash" the facts.
The rights group said it knew of the tense balance between the civilian government and the military. It added that does not excuse civilian leaders from doing more to end the crisis.
"The civilian government has a responsibility,” Amnesty's Tirana Hassan said of Aung San Suu Kyi. She added that the government must learn what caused the violence.
VOA’s Margaret Besheer reported this story. Susan Shand adapted her report for Learning English. The editor was George Grow.
Words in This Story
senior – adj. of or related to a higher rating
refer – v. to send someone to a place or person
textbook – n. a book used in the study of a subject
atrocity – n. an abuse; a very bad situation
implicate – v. to say someone is responsible
de facto – adj. actual; real
whitewash – n. a planned effort to hide dishonest or illegal actions