A government-appointed commission today cleared Myanmar security forces of systematic rape, murder and arson against Rohingya Muslims, dismissing UN allegations of widespread abuses during a recent crackdown. The commission examined the deadly violence which began in northwestern Rakhine State in October last year after attacks by Rohingya militants on police posts near the Bangladesh border. The government is refusing to allow a UN fact-finding team to conduct its own probe into whether the security response amounted to “ethnic cleansing” of the stateless Rohingya minority. Giving their conclusions today, a state-backed commission said it found no evidence that Myanmar security forces carried out a systematic campaign of rape, murder or arson. Instead any “excessive actions” were likely committed by low-rank “individual members of the security forces”. “Some incidents (of abuse) appeared to be fabricated… others had little evidence,” according to a press release by the commission. It also took aim at a detailed report by the UN’s Human Rights Office released in February this year.
That report said it was “very likely” that crimes against humanity had been committed during the crackdown. Based on interviews with 204 witnesses who fled to Bangladesh, the UN alleged Myanmar security forces gang-raped Rohingya women, butchered children and tortured men. But “no such cases were uncovered” by the government commission, which said the UN findings lacked balance and failed to recognise the gravity of the attacks by Rohingya militants. Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is a nobel peace prize winner, is blocking a visit by a UN team. She says the government commission is an adequate response to the violence, which left scores dead and displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya to Bangladesh. The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar and widely seen as illegal immigrants. Stateless, poor and subject to tight controls on movement, education and work, roughly one million of the Muslim group are hemmed into the impoverished border zone — which remains locked down and under curfew.
The commission conceded that foreign media and NGOs should have been granted access to the zone during the conflict to dispel “misconceptions.” It also called for rights training for low-level security officers, urged local officials to tackle corruption and called for swift and fair trials of suspected militants. Rakhine State remains violent and on edge. The government says foreign-backed Rohingya militants are still active in the conflict area, accusing them of killing perceived state collaborators and running “terror” training camps. Last week seven Buddhists were found dead in the conflict area. Rohingya villages also continue to be raided. On Friday up to 50 “warning shots” were fired at a Rohingya village during a raid. Unverifiable images on social media showed several people wounded by bullets allegedly fired in the episode.