Myanmar junta returns bodies of Rohingya conscripts to families

Police claim they stepped on landmines, while escaping forced training.
By RFA Burmese
Myanmar junta returns bodies of Rohingya conscripts to families Muslims in Rakhine state wearing uniforms and undergoing military training on March 10, 2024.
Citizen journalist

The bodies of seven conscripts forced to join Myanmar’s junta army were returned to their families, residents told Radio Free Asia on Friday. The recruits were members of the Rohingya community, which has been frequently persecuted by the military for its heritage and Islamic faith.

A resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons said police told families of the dead they had died while trying to run away.

“Seven bodies were brought in a police truck,” he said. “When the family members asked the people who sent the bodies [how they died], they were told the men were running away during training and were killed by landmines.”

Five of the deceased are from Thea Chaung Let Tha Mar Kone village, one is from Thet Kay Pyin village and another is from Thea Chaung village, according to residents.

“The bodies have no limbs, but I don’t know whether they have bullet wounds or not,” he said. 

Military training is being administered to the Rohingya recruits at the junta army’s Regional Command Headquarters based in Sittwe.

Other villages reported bodies of Rohingya members of the community have also been returned in a similar manner, but RFA has not been able to verify these claims. Rakhine state’s junta spokesperson Hla Thein did not respond to enquiries about how the men died.

Since Myanmar’s conscription laws were announced by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Feb. 10, troops nationwide have attempted to press-gang large numbers into the dwindling military. 

The People’s Military Service Law requires men and women aged 18 to 35 to serve in the junta’s armed forces for two years. Many young people have rejected the call to duty by hiding, fleeing the country and protesting.

In Bago region, mass arrests of young people have sparked fears they may be used to bolster the military. But further west in Rakhine state, the Rohingya victims of the 2017 genocide have faced harsher recruitment methods with the junta threatening to kill them if they refuse to serve.

Since February, village administrators have recruited Rohingya living in Rakhine state’s capital of Sittwe for junta-led military training. Administrators have forced between 20 and 30 people per village and many more from internally placed persons camps to join the training, residents said.

Threatened and beaten, the methods have drawn at least 1,000 Rohingya from Sittwe, Buthidaung, Kyaukpyu and Maungdaw townships in Rakhine state into the army, according to one activist requesting anonymity for safety reasons. One video published on March 10 showed Rohingya trainees under army command. 

The junta-controlled Myanma Alinn Daily newspaper denied Muslims were being targeted for recruitment in Rakhine state in a Feb. 28 article. 

An Arakan Army statement issued on Wednesday alleged junta troops intentionally sent Rohingya to areas with heavy fighting. The group claimed to have also found and published photos of Rohingya soldiers’ bodies in junta bases it later captured in Rathedaung earlier this week.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 


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