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US envoy: Myanmar admission soldiers killed Rohingya an important step

  • Published at 08:45 pm January 11th, 2018
US envoy: Myanmar admission soldiers killed Rohingya an important step

Myanmar's admission that soldiers were involved in the murder of 10 Rohingyas in September was an important step and the United States hoped it would be followed by more transparency and accountability, the US ambassador said on Thursday.

The military said on Wednesday its soldiers had killed 10 captured Rohingya "terrorists" at the beginning of September, after Buddhist villagers had forced the men into a grave they had dug.

It was a rare acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during its operations in the western state of Rakhine.

"The military's acknowledgment that the security forces were involved in the killing of these 10 individuals is an important step," Ambassador Scot Marciel said in a forum on media freedom with journalism students and reporters in the main city Yangon.

The army launched a sweeping counteroffensive in northern Rakhine in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks on August 25, triggering an exodus of more than 655,000 villagers to Bangladesh.

Marciel denounced the coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents that sparked the latest violence, but said the US had information suggesting the response by Myanmar's military "involved a lot of human rights violations."

The US ambassador said he hoped the acknowledgment by the military that soldiers were involved in the killings at Inn Din would bring more openness and action against perpetrators of abuses.

"We hope it is followed up by more transparency and by holding those responsible accountable," said Marciel.

"I would stress this should be done, not as a favour to the international community but because it's good for the health of Myanmar's democracy."

The military said legal action would be taken against members of the security forces who violated their rules of engagement in killing the 10 suspected insurgents and against the villagers involved.

The military investigation was led by Lieutenant General Aye Win. The same officer had been in charge of a wider inquiry into the conduct of troops in the conflict that concluded in a report in November that no atrocities had taken place.

Myanmar's armed forces have for decades been accused by human rights groups and Western governments of abuses in the country's myriad ethnic conflicts, but it has been rare for soldiers to be held accountable.

An admission by a top general in July 2016 that soldiers had killed five villagers during an interrogation in northern Shan State was seen at the time as unprecedented. Seven soldiers were subsequently jailed for five years with hard labour.