November 21, 2017

No evidence of crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing

Press conference of the Investigation Commission on Maungtaw in Rakhine State in progress.  Photo: Myanmar News Agency

A government commission looking into allegations by journalists and international human rights advocates that Myanmar’s security forces have committed abuses against Muslims in Rakhine State found those allegations to be groundless.
The Investigation Commission on Maungtaw in Rakhine State found there was no possible evidence indicating any crime against humanity or any act of ethnic cleansing in support of allegations by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), according to a press statement delivered by Vice President U Myint Swe yesterday
in Yangon.
The allegations of abuses by security forces came after an attack on a government checkpoint in October sparked a crackdown in Maungtaw region. A number of Muslims of northern Rakhine State left their homes.
The report of OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh interviewed 204 persons who fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh. Many of the stories of abuse included in the report were unsubstantiated.
The Vice President, who chaired the commission, said that accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing were part of a smear campaign by “external forces.”
“Sadly, we found that OHCHR report fails to describe the brutal acts and murders by terrorist organizations against members of security forces in the first instance in the Maungtaw area in October last year, or the indiscriminate killing and intimidation of natives and Muslim villagers, or the terrorist trainings by terrorist organizations, or the arrival of domestic and international assistance to Maungtaw villages,” he said.
“Based on interviews with individuals who ran away from Maungtaw region, OHCHR’s report exaggerates the number of deaths and injuries and displaced persons, the amount of destruction, the amount of property loss and damage resulting from armed engagements between terrorists and security forces – who were only trying to restore peace, stability and the rule of law – with the intention of tarnishing the image of Myanmar internationally,” said the Vice President.
The Vice President said that although OHCHR interviewed some ethnic people, who are minorities in Maungtaw, the UN’s report “ignored” their perspectives.

The Vice President also emphasized the gravity of the 9 October attack that sparked the area-combing operations. He described the attack against Border Guard Police Force Headquarters No. 1 and other police stations as an act of rebellion.
The Vice President said that foreign interference had worsened the situation and made its resolution more complicated.
The commission’s report was completed on 31 January, but its publication was delayed in order to wait for the OHCHR report, which included interviews of Maungtaw Muslims who left Rakhine for Bangladesh, he said.
The government commission visited Maungtaw and refugee camps in Bangladesh to verify the OHCHR report, the Vice President said.
“Moreover, the government commission waited for all possible responses, so that anyone at refugee camps in Bangladesh filing lawsuits could make their claims. Hence, it took more than six months to complete the commission report,” he said.
“The seizure of large caches of narcotic drugs in Maungtaw region indicates the likelihood of the rise of illicit drugs trafficking in the area in connection with the armed insurgency and illegal business,” he warned.
The Vice President said that the commission report provides recommendations to improve the political, cultural and economic situation in Maungtaw to prevent such challenges in the future.
The press conference was attended by commission members including U Aung Kyi, U Tun Myat, Dr Aung Tun Thet, U Nyunt Swe, Dr Daw Thet Thet Zin, Dr Hla Maung, U Zaw Win (retired Police Maj-Gen), U Saw Thalay Saw, Daw Kyeik Ngaik Man, U Aung Naing and Dr Tha Nyan.—Myanmar News Agency

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