The European Rohingya Council (ERC) unequivocally rejects the findings of “Maungdaw Investigation Commission” on the well-documented human rights abuses committed during Myanmar’s armed forces “clearance operations” against Rohingya civilians in northern Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State.
“There is no possibility of crimes against humanity, no evidence of ethnic cleansing [of Rohingya],” claimed Myint Swe as he read a statement in front of mostly-local reporters in Yangon on Sunday, 6 August.
The 13-member commission established by President Htin Kyaw in December 2016, concluded its eight-month probe on “the background situations that led to violent attacks” on three Border Guard Police outposts on 9 October 2016.
Presiding as the chair of the commission is vice-President Myint Swe, a former military regime’s Chief of Military Security Affairs, who is known for to be “fiercely loyal” to former dictator Senior General Than Shwe, and for the infamous crackdown of 2007 Saffron Revolution and the overseeing of now-defunct notorious Border Security Force [NaSaKa] in northern Rakhine State.
The press conference attended by all 13 members of commission, came up with the whitewash mechanism, and absurdly exculpated the armed forces’ atrocious crimes against humanity.
A propaganda-styled photo exhibition highlighting the investigative field trips’ key findings was on display at the perimeter of the conference room. The commission’s juvenile visual display included textboxes with cross marks and no’s– “The Commission found no evidence of ethnic cleansing”; “The Commission found no evidence of crimes against humanity”; “The Commission found no evidence of Genocide”.
When the formation of commission was announced, the ERC strongly objected it for its lack of openness and credibility to establish the facts about the allegations of severe human rights abuses that Myint Swe’s military institution committed during the clearance operations. ERC has also warned against the likelihood of whitewashing by the commission, distorting the well-documented evidence of crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya, perpetrated by the armed forces.
Moreover, a number of human rights activists and organizations have raised serious concerns on the commission as the U.N. Special advisor on Genocide Prevention Adama Dieng described, “the commission is not a credible option to undertake the new investigation” due to the lack impartiality and independent or “international observers”, while Consultant and Coordinator of Arakan Project Chris Lewa claimed “the methodology [of the commission] is not credible, it’s totally unprofessional.. [and] there is no corroboration from the [Rohingya] villagers they are meant to have talked to.”
“Myanmar [Burma]’s own investigation would be like wolves figuring out who ate the chickens,” compared Human Rights activist and Burmese scholar Dr. Maung Zarni.
New York-based Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson, feared the commission was “looking more and more like the Myanmar government whitewash mechanism that we feared it would be [as it is chaired by former general Myint Swe].”
Myint Swe maintained that accusation of crimes against humanity were “simply not there”, and they were “fabricated” although U.N. Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Ms Yanghee Lee, has claimed “I would say crimes against humanity. Definite crimes against humanity… by the Burmese, Burmese military, the border guards or the police or the security forces”.
The commission also said that “no gang rape happened” to Rohingya women and some of them were “paid or intimidated” into reporting as well as slammed the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s report of crimes against humanity such as rape, extra-judicial killing, as “fabricated” and “had little evidence”.
The U.N.’s report based on 204 interviews with Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh during the clearance operations, found “extrajudicial executions or other killings, including by random shooting; enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention; rape, including gang rape, and other forms of sexual violence; physical assault including beatings; torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; looting and occupation of property; destruction of property; and ethnic and religious discrimination and persecution”.
“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
“It’s shocking. I’ve never encountered a situation like this, where you do 204 interviews and every single person you speak with has a traumatic story, whether their house was burnt, they’ve been raped or relative was killed or taken away.
The testimonies we gathered pointed at two intents as the motivation of this persecution: the collective punishment following humiliation over the attacks against police officers in October, and the ethnic and racial element – the distain for this minority. You don’t slaughter eight-month-old babies because a police officer was attacked. It’s because you just don’t consider the child as human.
It’s very rare for there to be such a high prevalence of violence. And when you think we spoke to just 204 people of a total of 88,000 who have fled the area, it’s really scary to think of the total numbers,” said Linnea Arvidsson who was one of the UN workers interviewed Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The commission has submitted the report to President Htin Kyaw with “long-term solutions” such as increase security, salary raise for armed personnel, citizenship verification [forcedly levelling of Rohingya as ‘Bengali’].
Meanwhile Aung San Suu Kyi has ordered to refuse visa to the independent international U.N. fact-finding investigators on the alleged human rights abuses against Rohingya.
“We will order Myanmar embassies not to grant any visa to U.N. fact-finding mission members. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said we would not coordinate with U.N. fact-finding mission, as we have disassociated ourselves from the resolution because we do not think that the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground,” said her deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kyaw Tin.
The ERC strongly objects the findings of the vice-President Myint Swe led sham-commission for its bias, impartiality and lack of openness and credibility, and reaffirms the endorsement of the independent U.N. fact-finding mission to probe the grave human rights violations against Rohingya civilians in northern Maungdaw.
The European Rohingya Council also urges Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to allow the fact-finding mission to impartially investigate the violations, and bring the perpetrators into accountability to prevent further crimes against humanity, and build on long-term solutions for peace and stability in the region.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Hla Kyaw
Chairman, The European Rohingya Council
Dr. Anita Schug
Spokesperson, The European Rohingya Council