The government of Myanmar has again rejected U.N. calls for accountability in its handling of the ongoing Rohingya crisis after a statement by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar Tuesday urged the international community to cut off financial aid to Myanmar’s military.
Mission Chair Marzuki Darusman, who just concluded a 10-day tour of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, said drastic measures were needed since Naypyidaw has done little to resolve the egregious situation the Rohingyas face nearly two years since the Myanmar military drove from their homes in Rakhine state to seek shelter in Bangladesh.
“There has been no movement toward a resolution to the crisis,” he said. “The situation is at a total standstill.”
The statement said that a 444-page report was submitted to the Human Rights Council in September 2018, and detailed how the military “brutally and systemically violated the human rights of ethnic minorities throughout the country.”
War crimes and atrocities detailed in the report include the killing of thousands of Rohingya civilians, rape and sexual assault, the razing of villages and a “forced exodus” of 700,000 people.
“Following this violence, Myanmar authorities have leveled empty Rohingya villages with bulldozers, effectively destroying criminal evidence, while making no substantive progress in resolving the ethnic animosities that have helped fuel the crisis,” said the statement.
“Both military and civilian sides of Myanmar’s government persistently deny the facts and disclaim any responsibility for crimes under international law,” it said.
The fact-finding mission met representatives from Chin, Kachin, Shan and Rakhine communities to discuss violence and fighting and humanitarian problems, the statement said.
“Meeting with these different ethnic communities only underscored our findings that the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military) has over time committed similar atrocities against many of the ethnic groups living within the borders of Myanmar. Acknowledging that human rights violations have been committed, holding people accountable and reforming the Tatmadaw is the only way forward,” mission member Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
In response to the U.N. statement, military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said there would be little effect on the military since it is self-reliant.
“What I understand is that the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] is standing mainly on its own feet rather than depending on foreign assistance. Most of the basic weapons now being used by the Tatmadaw are produced locally nowadays,” he said.
Zaw Min Tun said that despite the recommendation from the U.N., Myanmar’s international military relationships will remain strong.
“Our military acquired most of its technologies from China and Russia. We have sent several officers to Russia’s military academies for training, and outstanding students excelled in their studies.” he said.
“We also have sustained relationships with ASEAN countries and neighboring countries, aside from strategic alliance with China and Russia. So given the extent of Myanmar military’s existing international relationships, the recommendation from this Fact-Finding Mission will not affect us,” he added.
Meanwhile Hau Do Suan, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., underscored his government’s rejection of the U.N. mission.
“We’ve been saying all the time at the UN both in Geneva and New York that the establishment of the FFM is unacceptable and we don’t recognize it,” he said in an interview with RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“Their work is unnecessary and [a] waste of the U.N.’s funds. It’s not a team that could find a fair solution,” he said, adding, “Look at their report. Have you seen anything good? I mean [in terms of a] constructive approach.”
“[A] Constructive approach is important in solving problems. We’ve been cooperating with the U.N., the Security Council and [a] special envoy of the Secretary General as well as special envoys for sexual violence and child soldiers. We also cooperate with [The U.N. Human Rights Council].”
“But look at the objective of the FFM. It’s totally unconstructive and [presents] absolutely no way to find solutions. We’ve seen it that way clearly. Look at their findings now, urging [the international community] to take actions [against] the Tatmadaw, cutting funding and referring [it] to the ICC [International Criminal Court].
In contrast, the FFM’s statement was received positively by a Rohingya rights organization outside of Myanmar.
“We welcome the announcement. We hope there is an economic cut to the military. What we deemed impossible before will become possible soon,” said Tun Khin of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK.
“Because the military is the perpetrator for various crimes against ethnic minorities in the country, we have to hit the military hard. In order to do that, we should cut its financial and economic ties with foreign entities,” he said.
“Illegal weapon supplies from foreign countries are essential for their survival. So I think this is really good news for Rohingya and all other oppressed minorities in Myanmar,” he added.
Asked about the comments by the military spokesperson, Tun Khin said that support from China and Russia alone could leave the Tatmadaw in a difficult situation.
“They may have unanimous support from China. But, two or three years ago, we saw some [Myanmar] military officers visiting countries like Belgium. It implied that they are not satisfied with Chinese weapons,” he said.
“They don’t want to be over-reliant on Chinese weapons sales. They may have to pay the monopoly price if China is the sole supplier,” he added.
“Russia could still supply them too. But it would still become a problem if they cannot diversify suppliers. These measures will prevent the military from officially visiting the weapon manufacturing countries for the purchase,” said Tun Khin.
Weapons trading aside, Tun Khin was optimistic that financial isolation would also be a huge hit to the Tatmadaw.
“They have financial ties with foreign entities in other areas. For example, the military owned enterprises have built airports and factories, but if we can stop the revenue of these companies, they can no longer support the military’s operations,” he said.
The U.N. Fact-Finding Mission will present its final report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2019.
Reported by Maung Maung Nyo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nandar Chann and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.