KONFRONTASI - Myanmar’s police are to conduct a “departmental enquiry” to determine whether law enforcement officers have committed human rights violations against the Muslim Rohingyas in the Buddhist-majority country.
“The departmental enquiry will be conducted ... to find out whether the police forces have committed illegal actions, including violations of human rights, during their area clearance operations,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a press release published on Saturday.
The ministry instructed police to conduct the investigation following a damning report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) accusing Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine of violating Rohingyas’ human rights.
“The UN report includes very serious human rights abuses allegations against police in Myanmar including rape,” Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe said on Monday, adding, “and that’s why an investigation committee was set up to respond to the report with evidence.”
The February 3 report, entitled “Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016,” said that Myanmar’s security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burned their villages since October last year in a campaign that “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.
The military had said last week that it was setting up a team of investigators to conduct a similar probe about the military atrocities in Rakhine.
Myanmar has so far denied almost all human rights violations in northern Rakhine State despite UN reports providing many documented accounts of the crimes and global condemnation of the crackdown.
The military crackdown was launched in October 2016 after nine policemen were killed in attacks by unidentified gunmen along the border. Authorities blamed the attack on the Rohingya.
This screen grab, taken on January 4, 2017, shows a policeman (backgroung-L) kicking a Rohingya Muslim in the village of Kotankauk during a police area clearance operation on November 5, 2016. (By AFP)
Myanmar has previously conducted a government probe into the accusations of abuse and murder against the Rohingya in Rakhine, but final reports have astonishingly claimed that no such violations had taken place.
The UN’s special rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has repeatedly slammed the country for its violation of the Rohingyas’ rights. Lee has said the estimated 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine are victims of “decades of systematic and institutionalized discrimination.”
“The government’s response to all of these problems seems to currently be to defend, dismiss and deny,” she said in January at the end of a probe of her own into the human rights situation in Myanmar.
More than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims may have been killed and almost 69,000 Rohingyas have fled across border to Bangladesh since the crackdown has started, according to UN sources.
The Rohingya have faced discrimination in Myanmar for generations. They live in apartheid-like conditions and are not classified as a distinct group under citizenship laws and are regarded instead as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.[ptv]