Advertisement

Myanmar’s military to investigate itself on Rohingya rape allegations

Rights groups have been documenting horrific stories of the military raping Rohingya women for months now.

Dildar Begum, 30, said she fled to Bangladesh shortly after the August 25th attack from Tula Toli village in Myanmar. The military, she said, killed her husband and her three children before holding her down and raping her. (CREDIT: Allison Joyce/Getty Images.)
Dildar Begum, 30, said she fled to Bangladesh shortly after the August 25th attack from Tula Toli village in Myanmar. The military, she said, killed her husband and her three children before holding her down and raping her. (CREDIT: Allison Joyce/Getty Images.)

Myanmar state-run media reports that the military there will be “taking harsh and stronger actions against such offenders” in the horrific rapes of Rohingya women and girls, documented by rights groups.

The United Nations has estimated that around 700,000 Rohinyga have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August, when Myanmar kicked off this latest round of bloody crackdown on the Muslim minority.

“Basically it’s like the mafia investigating itself,” said Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Asia Division. The rights group has produced reports based on interviews it has done with survivors of rape at the hands of Myanmar’s military.

“It’s an institution, the army, that has never held its own soldiers accountable for almost anything,” he said, adding that there are already public statements being made by the military, exonerating itself and saying that “claims of rape by its soldiers are ‘fake news’ — they’re using [President Donald] Trump’s language.”

Officials there have also used that term to even deny the existence of Rohingya.

Adams told ThinkProgress that HRW has submitted its findings to the U.N., which is conducting its own investigations, with the results to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in September.

Advertisement

The U.N. has described Myanmar’s response to deadly attacks on police posts by Rohingya insurgents as “ethnic cleansing,” stopping short of calling it what some human rights activists have: genocide.

Reports on the number of Rohingya killed since the start of the military operation are close to that of the years-long war in Yemen, which has included over three years of aerial bombardment by Saudi-led forces.

Officials, though, downplay the numbers, saying that a few hundred Rohingya have been killed and that they were terrorists.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Tuesday that envoys from the U.N. Security Council have traveled to Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, which was home to some 1.1 million Rohingya who are not granted citizenship rights, living in what Amnesty International called “apartheid-like” conditions.

This picture taken from Maungdaw district, Myanmar's Rakhine state on April 25, 2018 shows Rohingya refugees gathering behind a barbed-wire fence in a temporary settlement setup in a "no man's land" border zone between Myanmar and Bangladesh. CREDIT:  Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images.
This picture taken from Maungdaw district, Myanmar's Rakhine state on April 25, 2018 shows Rohingya refugees gathering behind a barbed-wire fence in a temporary settlement setup in a "no man's land" border zone between Myanmar and Bangladesh. CREDIT: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images.

Adams said it’s important to note that while the U.N. is doing its job, the U.N. Security Council is a political body made up of governments and that, “they’re not doing their job.”

Russia and China will veto any action against Myanmar owing to trade and military interests.

“Except, as the evidence mounts … the Chinese in particular will have to decide whether they want to be seen, even in their own public’s opinion, as siding with a military that systematically rapes women,” said Adams.

Advertisement

Still, the Security Council envoys flew over villages burned and razed by the Myanmar military, which destroyed evidence of what happened there and allowed the government to claim the land as its own.

They also met with Myanmar’s leader, leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whom British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce described as “very forthcoming” on the topic of the rapes, insisting such crimes were “not tolerated.”

But Suu Kyi, who does not control the military, also told Pierce that “if evidence were available it should be reported to the Burmese authorities and they would investigate.”

But that statement isn’t worth much.

“Aug San Suu Kyi has made a considered decision to be complicit with the military in the worst kinds of human rights abuses,” said Adams.

“As a human rights activist who supported her when she was a victim, that is a sad thing for me to say, and I don’t want to be saying it,” he added. Indeed, Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied that rights abuses have taken place, has not criticized the military, and has refused to call the Rohingya.

Advertisement

It remains to be seen if the military in Myanmar (sometimes referred to by it’s former name, Burma) will agree to turn over whatever evidence it receives to impartial, international investigators, although at this point, that seems highly unlikely.

The government of Myanmar has severely limited the access of aid workers, human rights activists, and U.N. agencies to Rakhine, where there are reports of Rohingya being deliberately starved by the state, according the the U.N.