Two soldiers from Myanmar report orders from their superiors. In 2017 they were supposed to kill members of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
For three years now, the military and the government of Myanmar have been trying to maintain a framework of lies that, according to the United Nations, conceals genocide against the Rohingya minority. The government says the allegations were fabricated or exaggerated by the victims. But now two of the perpetrators have spoken out.
“Shoot everything you see and hear,” said the commanders to Myo Win Tun. He obeyed. His unit killed at least 30 Rohingya. The bodies were then buried.
“The second commanding officer ordered that we wipe out all Kalar and that their ethnic group be destroyed,” Myo Win Tun said in a video. “The Muslims were shot in the forehead and then thrown into a grave.” Kalar is a derogatory term in Myanmar, where Rohingya are considered illegal immigrants as Bangladesh.
The statements by Myo Win Tun and another soldier come from videos available to the taz and which the New York Times, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the human rights organization Fortify Rights reported on Tuesday.
They were filmed by the Arakan Army, a rebel group that has been fighting with the military in the home of the Rohingya in western Myanmar for almost two years. In February the Arakan Army threatened to use Twitter to release GPS data from alleged Rohingya mass graves in Rakhine.
The two soldiers shown in the video fled Myanmar to Bangladesh under unknown circumstances last month. According to the New York Times, they were taken to The Hague on Monday, where the International Criminal Court is investigating Myanmar’s military.
Fortify Rights calls for the two deserters to be included in a witness protection program. It is unclear how they came into contact with the Arakan Army and under what circumstances or why they made their confessions.
“This is a historic moment for the Rohingya and the people of Myanmar who seek justice,” said Matthew Smith, director of Fortify Rights. “These two men could be the first offenders from Myanmar to be convicted by the International Criminal Court.”
Myanmar’s government and military have not yet responded to the revelations. The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi started the election campaign on the day of publication. Elections will be held in Myanmar on November 3rd.
Last December, Aung San Suu Kyi defended the military against the genocide allegations before the International Court of Justice, also located in The Hague. The military actions were only directed against members of a Rohingya rebel group.
“This news is a success for us. It looks like the perpetrators themselves now have compassion for us Rohingya,” says Sawyeddollah, a young Rohingya activist. Three years ago, at the same time as 700,000 other Rohingya, he fled the military to Bangladesh and lives there in a refugee camp.
Because the Rohingya can only survive there with the support of aid organizations, many of them fall into the hands of smugglers. Around 300 Rohingya, captured on a boat at sea for six months, were brought ashore by Indonesian fishermen in Aceh on Monday.