Naypyidaw, Jan 11: Myanmar has said members of its security forces were involved in the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims found in a mass grave last month in Rakhine State, where the country’s military has been accused of ethnic cleansing.
“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 Myanmar military said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Before this admission, Myanmar’s military had denied any wrongdoing in the violence that began in late August 2017 and has led to the exodus of more than 650,000 Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
In a statement, the military said around 200 “Bengali terrorists” attacked security forces with sticks and near the village of Inn Din, north of the provincial capital Sittwe, on September 1, 2017. The military “shot into the sky to disperse them (and) during that incident they captured 10 Bengali terrorists.”
The 10 men were taken back to the village, where the “decision was made to kill them at the (Peyon) cemetery.”
The statement said the next day security forces escorted villagers as they marched the detained men to the Peyon cemetery in Inn Din village. There, the villagers dug a pit and told the men to enter it. Some villagers entered the pit and attempted to stab or slash the men with swords and knives, after which a scuffle broke out.
“As some attacks coursed among them, four members of security forces near the pit shot them,” the statement said.
A few months earlier, the statement said a local man had been allegedly killed by “Bengali terrorists,” and his sons were among the group who escorted the men to the mass grave.
Both the UN and the United States say the violence that broke out last year and resulted in a massive refugee crisis on the Bangladesh border amounts to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya from predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.
The Myanmar government says the bloodshed resulted from a military crackdown on militants who carried out co-ordinated attacks on border posts.
A recent Médecins Sans Frontières report said at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in attacks during the first month of the crackdown in Rakhine. In November, Myanmar’s military said that 376 “ARSA Bengali terrorists” were killed in fighting between August 25 and September 5, referring to the Rohingya insurgent group.