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The men who orchestrated ethnic cleansing in Rakhine

  • Published at 01:14 am September 7th, 2018
Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village September 1, 2017REUTERS
Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village September 1, 2017 REUTERS

Amnesty International identifies 13 Myanmar army and BGP officials responsible for the brutal persecution of the Rohingyas

On the morning of August 25, 2017, a Rohingya armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched coordinated attacks on security forces’ posts in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar.

Right after the attacks, Myanmar’s army and Border Guard Police and their allies launched a brutal counteroffensive, targeting the Rohingya villages. That “ethnic cleansing” operation led more than 700,000 people, mostly children and women, of the minority community to cross over to Bangladesh to save their lives.

They, however, joined more than 400,000 Rohingyas who were already living in squalid and cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar, putting more pressure on Bangladesh.

International rights organization Amnesty International (AI) on June 27 published a 186-page report, titled “Myanmar: “We will destroy everything”: Military responsibility for crimes against humanity in Rakhine State,” where they identified 13 military personnel of the country who were behind the atrocities.

The AI said it has gathered extensive, credible evidence of direct or command responsibility for crimes against humanity against them.

It said the report was based on more than 400 interviews taken between September 2017 and June 2018, including the ones during four research missions to the refugee camps in Bangladesh and three missions to Myanmar, one of which was to Rakhine.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing

The AI said Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services (CINCDS) Senior General Min Aung Hlaing should face judicial proceedings for not taking responsibility to prevent the crimes against humanity - crimes against the Rohingyas.

It said Hlaing was very likely involved in the decision to deploy the 33rd and 99th battalions of the Light Infantry Divisions (LID) to Rakhine in August 2017.

He knew or should have known his subordinates’ actions, said the report, adding that he did nothing to prevent or stop the crimes and failed to punish the subordinates responsible for them. 

Vice Senior General Soe Win

The report said Commander-in-Chief (Army) Vice Senior General Soe Win, who is also the deputy CINCDS, had controlled the decisions to deploy the LID and Light Infantry Battalions (LIB).  These crimes too were documented by the AI.

Apart from the senior general, Win had command authority over the army which enforced the institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination against the Rohingyas, amounting to the crime against humanity of apartheid, said the report.

Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw

As the commander of the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) Number 3, Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw, from 2015 till January 2018, controlled all military operations in the southern, south-western and western commands, which includes Rakhine.

Zaw was present in northern Rakhine during the attacks on Rohingyas before and during 2017. In early August last year, he had accompanied the western commander to the Rathedaung township in response to the “recent terrorist attacks,” said the report.

In late May this year, it was reported that he had been removed from that position, for taking “responsibility for the actions of the western commander.”

Major General Maung Maung Soe

Western command units under Major General Maung Maung Soe had carried out the massacre in Maung Nu on August 27, 2017 and participated in other crimes against humanity, said the AI report.

Across Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, these units had imposed inhumane tactics, like starvation, to force the Rohingyas who were living there out, even after the initial violent counteroffensive.

At least a dozen battalions under Soe were also involved in maintaining the apartheid-like system under which the Rohingya population lived even before 2017. The major general was relieved of his command last November and put in “reserves” or “auxiliary forces.”

Brigadier General Khin Maung Soe 

The 564th LIB under the command of Brigadier General Khin Maung Soe, commander of Military Operation Command (MOC) 15, carried out the Maung Nu massacre, according to the report. 

Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, left, and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services and Commander-in-Chief (Army) Vice Senior General Soe Win | Wikimedia commons

Throughout the Buthidaung township, MOC 15 units also played a critical role in forcing the Rohingyas out of their villages and country in late 2017 and early 2018. 

Major Thant Zaw Win

Prior to the Maung Nu massacre, the 564th LIB’s Major Thant Zaw Win was seen speaking on the phone, in the courtyard where the vast majority of murders occurred, and was heard to give an order to begin the attack, says the AI.

Soldiers under his command then proceeded to carry out scores of extra-judicial executions of Rohingya men and boys.

Staff Sergeant Ba Kyaw

Staff Sergeant Ba Kyaw of the 564th LIB appeared to have been one of several key perpetrators of the Maung Nu massacre, said the report.

He was well known to the Rohingyas who lived in the area, as he spoke the Rohingya dialect and often interacted with the leaders and villagers in Chin Tha Mar village. That had positioned him to play a determinative role to carry out the massacre.

Brigadier General Aung Aung

Units under the command of 33rd LID Commander Brigadier General Aung Aung carried out the massacre, torture, rape and other sexual violence and burned a number of villages in Rathedaung and southern Maungdaw townships on August 27, 2017.

The AI report said that these units had also carried out similar crimes against humanity in northern Shan State in 2016 and early 2017.

Major Aung Myo Thu

The soldiers under the command of 33rd LID’s Field Unit Commander Major Aung Myo Thu, allegedly that along with the BGP and local vigilantes, killed more than 200 Rohingya people, raped Rohingya women, and burned down the villages, said the report.

Brigadier General Than Oo

A unit under the then 99th LID Commander Brigadier General Than Oo allegedly carried out the massacre, torture, rape and other sexual violence in Min Gyi and other Rohingya villages in the northern Maungdaw township on August 30, says the report.

It is believed that the crimes occurred due to Oo’s failure in properly exercising his authority to stop and punish those under his command.

In May 2018, it was reported that Oo had been “transferred to the auxiliary force.”

Brigadier General Thura San Lwin

BGP’s Commander Brigadier General Thura San Lwin, who led the force from October 2016 to October 3, 2017, had allegedly ordered the burning of dozens of Rohingya villages in the name of “clearance operations” in Kyee Kan Pyin, the report says.

Analysts, as well as credible media outlets, had linked Lwin’s sacking to his failure to anticipate the August 25 ARSA attacks.

BGP Officer Tun Naing 

Rohingya survivors and witnesses alleged that BGP’s Taung Bazar base commanding officer Tun Naing was responsible for the crimes against humanity at different villages in northern Buthidaung township on August 25, says the AI report.

Naing told the AI that he was directly involved in the arrest, interrogation and detention of Rohingyas, but denied that he had physically mistreated anyone in detention.

BGP Corporal Kyaw Chay

Survivors and witnesses told the AI that BGP’s Corporal Kyaw Chay was involved in crimes against humanity at the Chut Pyin and surrounding villages last year. They also complained that Chay had tortured detainees at the Zay Di Pyin BGP base.

Although Chay denied the allegations while talking to AI, the head of that base, Police Lieutenant Myo Zaw Oo, said the corporal had lied.