UN Report: Myanmar Generals Must Face Justice

27 August, 2018

United Nations investigators are accusing the military in Myanmar of carrying out numerous crimes last year during its campaign against Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar's armed forces carried out mass killings and rapes of Rohingya with "genocidal intent," the U.N. investigators said. They added that the commander-in-chief and five generals should be tried under international law for the most serious crimes.

In a report, they urged the U.N. Security Council to set up a court to try suspects or send their cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They said that the Security Council should restrict arms to Myanmar and order targeted sanctions to punish individuals most responsible for crimes.

FILE - Rohingya refugees gather during the visit of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, July 2, 2018. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
FILE - Rohingya refugees gather during the visit of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, July 2, 2018. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)

The investigators blamed Myanmar's de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her "moral authority" to protect civilians. They said her government was partly to blame for the crisis. It accused the government of letting hate speech continue, destroying documents and failing to protect minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The report also criticized Facebook for letting the world's largest social media business be used to spread violence and hatred. The company reacted on Monday by announcing that it was blocking 20 Myanmar officials and groups found by the U.N. to have "committed or enabled serious human rights abuses."

A military spokesman, Major General Tun Tun Nyi, said he could not immediately comment on the U.N. report. He spoke to the Reuters news agency. The Myanmar government was sent a copy of the report before it was made public.

One year ago, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 30 Myanmar police stations and a military base. To answer the attacks, government troops launched operations against suspected rebels and their supporters in Rakhine state. About 700,000 Rohingya fled the area to escape the violence. Most are now living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

The U.N. report said the military action, which included setting fire to villages, was "disproportionate to actual security threats."

The U.N. panel said the crimes were "similar in nature" to genocidal crimes in other countries.

Myanmar's government has rejected most claims of violence made against the security forces by refugees. The government has built centers to help refugees return to the country, but U.N. aid agencies say it is not yet safe for them to do so.

Moral authority

The United Nations defines genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. Such a designation is rare, but has been used in countries such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan.

The U.N. panel also said there was enough information to support "the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the (army)" to determine if they were responsible for a genocide.

The head of the panel is Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia. He said that the commander-in-chief of Myanmar's military, Min Aung Hlaing, should resign until there is an investigation into his part in the violence.

The list of generals also includes Brigadier-General Aung Aung, commander of the 33rd Light Infantry Division, which directed operations in the village of Inn Din, where 10 Rohingya captive boys and men were killed.

Those killings were discovered by two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They were arrested last December by the government for violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act.

A ruling in their trial was expected on Monday, but has been postponed until September 3.

In April, seven soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking part in the Inn Din killings.

"Oppression from birth to death"

The U.N. investigators spoke with 875 suspected victims and witnesses in Bangladesh and other countries. They examined documents, videos and satellite images.

Years of state-sponsored discrimination against Rohingya had resulted in "oppression from birth to death," the report said.

The Rohingya see themselves as native to Rakhine state. They are considered migrants by Myanmar's Buddhist majority and are denied citizenship.

In March, the panel's members had accused Facebook of permitting it to be used to support violence. The report said the social media company should have acted quicker.

On Monday, Facebook said in a statement: "The ethnic violence in Myanmar has been truly horrific. Earlier this month, we shared an update on the steps we're taking to prevent the spread of hate and misinformation on Facebook."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

The Reuters news agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted the report for VOA Learning English. The editor was George Grow.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

intentn. the thing that you plan to do or achieve

sanctionsn. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country

de factoadj. actual; in reality

authorityn. the power to influence opinions or behavior

disproportionate – adj. having or showing a difference that is not fair, reasonable, or expected

paneln. a group of people who answer questions, give advice or opinions about something, or take part in a discussion for an audience

designation – n. the act of officially choosing someone or something to do or be something

migrant – n. someone who moves from place to place, usually to find work

updaten. current information; an up-to-date version or report