Myanmar Military Denies Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya


Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh since October. MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP

The Myanmar military is denying all accounts of widespread violence towards the Rohingya population in Rakhine state. While the military has denied the genocide for some time now, Tatmadaw True News Information Team posted the results of a military investigation which claims that the Myanmar military followed rules of engagement, never shot at innocent “Bengalis,” did not burn houses, committed no rape or sexual violence, and did not use excessive force. The report further notes that any violence committed was by “Bengali” terrorists, and any violence used by the military was used against “terrorists” and “terrorist mobs.” The military gave power to civilian government in late 2015, however they retain control of some ministries, giving them particular power in ending or continuing the conflict.

These claims are directly refuted by the BBC, the United Nations, and Amnesty International, which have based their investigations on the half-million refugees that have fled Myanmar and reported widespread murder, rape, and the burning of villages by local Buddhist mobs supported by the Myanmar military.  Amnesty International has responded to the report, calling it an attempt to “whitewash crimes against humanity,” and pointing to an earlier report exploring the satellite and human rights evidence that shows that Rohingya areas were being targeted, while the homes of others were kept safe. Aung San Suu Kyi has further distorted the truth by falsely claiming that the military has ended their attacks on Rohingya villages, and denying the discrimination against the people in Rakhine prior to the violence.

Given these efforts to deny the reality of widespread violence, verifying statements against those of organizations such as Amnesty International and the United Nations is of vital importance to those wishing to understand ongoing conflict in Myanmar. Even when the news cycle moves on, the Rohingya people in Myanmar continue to suffer. We may hope that violence will go down as time goes on, but current actions and presentations by the Myanmar military makes it clear that violence is continuing, and they are maintaining the façade of innocence. Now is the time to put pressure on government officials, and other organizations, to condemn the investigation, and pressure Myanmar to give unfettered access to human rights investigators and journalists.