Myanmar: Military's mass grave admission exposes extrajudicial killings of Rohingya

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono visits the Japanese cemetery in Yangon Myanmar

An internal military investigation in Myanmar found that Burmese soldiers and Buddhist local villagers were responsible for the murder of 10 captured Rohingya Muslims who were found buried in a mass grave in the western state of Rakhine.

Security forces had been conducting a "clearance operation" in the area on September 1 when "200 Bengali terrorists attacked using sticks and swords", the military said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of its commander-in-chief, Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

Relations between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims who lived in separate areas in the Inn Din village tract grew tense following deadly small-scale attacks by Muslim militants on border guard stations on October 9, 2016, which triggered a crackdown by security forces.

"However, it is only the tip of the iceberg and warrants serious independent investigation into what other atrocities were committed amid the ethnic cleansing campaign that has forced out more than 655,000 Rohingya", the rights group said in a statement.

"The situation for press freedom in Myanmar has got a lot worse since the Rohingya crisis began", said Daniel Bastard from Reporters Without Border's Asia-Pacific desk.

Lwin attributed the military's rare admission to the arrest of two Reuters journalists in December.

Their dependency on information gathered from the swelling refugee population in Bangladesh has earned them pariah status in Myanmar, where the Rohingya are widely perceived as foreign terrorists.

The military refers to members of the Rohingya Muslim minority as "Bengalis", a term the Rohingya reject as implying they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Security forces stationed at Inn Din village were then attacked by about 200 Rohingya brandishing sticks and swords on September 1. The army appointed a senior officer to investigate.

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As troops were over-stretched with trying to maintain peace "the decision was made to kill them at the cemetery" rather than take them to the police station.

10 #Rohingya villagers killed by #Myanmar military & #Rakhine villagers were arrested from this place on August 31, 2017.

"Action will be taken against the villagers who participated in the case and the members of security forces who broke the Rules of Engagement under the law", the statement said. Then members of the security forces shot them dead, the military said.

Inn Din villager Hossain Ahammad said the slain men were "fishermen, farmers, lumberjacks and clerics".

"These brutal killings confirm the urgent need for a thorough and credible investigation into all violent incidents in northern Rakhine state to ensure the accountability of those found responsible for committing atrocities", said a statement issued by the European Union in Yangon.

Prominent Myanmar legal activist Robert San Aung said the 10 Rohingya were killed in an "unlawful manner".

Those allegations, which have been cross-checked by media and rights groups, have seen Myanmar accused of ethnic cleansing by the United States and UN and prompted questions over whether the crackdown may have amounted to genocide.

The government said a previous mission report Lee issued was biased and unfair. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the campaign amounts to ethnic cleansing that could include "elements of genocide". Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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