Myanmar Commission Prepares to Submit Report on Rakhine

The group’s findings are different from those in a UN report on violence against Rohingya villagers.

Members of the Rakhine State Investigation Commission meet Rohingya Muslim residents of Gwazon village in Maungdaw township, western Myanmar's Rakhine state, Dec. 12, 2016.

A national-level commission investigating alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslim villagers during a crackdown in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state is preparing to issue a report on its findings to President Htin Kyaw.

Vice president Myint Swe, who chairs the commission, said in a statement on Tuesday that the commission had completed probes of violence against the stateless minority group that had reportedly occurred in 21 villages mentioned in a United Nations report on the crisis.

A report issued on Feb. 3 by the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that abuses, including murder, torture, and rape, committed by soldiers and police indicated “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

The OHCHR based its findings on interviews with more than 200 Rohingya who fled from villages in northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh during a crackdown after deadly attacks on border guard posts in October 2016 that officials have blamed on Rohingya militants.

Zaw Mying Pe, the commission’s secretary, said the group found a situation that was different from what was described in the U.N.’s report.

“The OHCHR’s report is far from the situation on the ground,” he said. “The U.N. commissioner didn’t review and check the information from people who were interviewed. It was as though they [U.N. rights investigators] recorded their answers and drew conclusions from them” without verifying them.

The commission said that it will submit a report to President Htin Kyaw with the facts they found.

The announcement also said the commission had asked the defense and home affairs ministries to help form groups to investigate the situation in Maungdaw township where most of the violence reportedly occurred.

The Myanmar military ended the four-month security lockdown in troubled northern Rakhine state last week and is conducting its own inquiry into the crisis, as is the Myanmar police force.

‘Not independent or credible’

Also on Tuesday, London-based Amnesty International blasted Myanmar’s efforts to investigate the violence in Rakhine and possible crimes against humanity as “not independent or credible” and “unlikely to deliver justice, truth, and reparations for victims and their families.”

The human rights group called for a U.N.-mandated independent international organizations into the human rights violations committed in Rakhine since Oct. 9.

“Investigators should be tasked with establishing the facts concerning alleged human rights violations, determining whether they constitute crimes against humanity, identifying the causes and alleged perpetrators, and making recommendations on the next steps needed to prevent impunity and ensure justice for victims,” the statement said.

“Failure to adequately investigate credible reports of grave human rights violations would send a message that security forces can commit crimes with impunity, contribute to further deterioration of the human rights situation in Rakhine state, and undermine efforts to tackle the root causes of violence and instability in the region,” it said.

The national-level investigation commission issued an interim report in January, saying it had found no cases of genocide or religious persecution of Rohingya living in the region in the wake of deadly border guard attacks last October and a subsequent security lockdown.

It also said its interviews of local residents about rape allegations had yielded insufficient evidence to take legal action, and that its investigations into accusations of arson, torture, and illegal arrests were ongoing.

Bangladesh weighs in

The U.N. has estimated that more than 1,000 died and about 73,000 Rohingya fled during the crackdown, most of whom are living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

The influx of refugees prompted Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali called on Monday to call on the international community to address Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya, Reuters reported.

He also said the influx across the river border between Rakhine and Bangladesh is detrimentally affecting the local population and undermining security

He made the comments during a meeting with Yanghee Lee, the U.N. human rights envoy to Buddhist-majority Myanmar, who is in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on a three-day visit to discuss the crisis with government officials and visit Rohingya refugee camps.

Lee will submit a report with her findings from a January visit to Myanmar, including violence-ridden areas of northern Rakhine, to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.