Two deserters from the Myanmar military confessed that they took part in the indiscriminate mass killing and rape of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. The ex-soldiers testified that they were instructed by their commanding officers to “shoot all that you see and that you hear” in the Rakhine state, where Rohingya Muslims lived.
The confessions, released by an ethnic guerilla group—Arakan Army, correspond with individual accounts that were given by survivors of the alleged atrocities. “The filmed confessions remain credible,” said Fortify Rights, an organization that collects, documents and analyzes evidence against human rights violations.
According to Fortify Rights, privates Myo Win Tun (33) and Zaw Naing Tun (30), who served in separate light infantry battalions, gave the names and ranks of 19 direct perpetrators from the Myanmar Army and six senior commanders who contributed to atrocity crimes against Rohingyas.
The soldiers agreed to murders, rapes, looting and arsons conducted as a part of the ethnic cleansing exercise against the Rohingyas in 2017. Based on these confessions alone, these two men may be directly responsible for killing over 180 Rohingya civilians. “This is a monumental moment for Rohingya and the people of Myanmar in their ongoing struggle for justice,” said Matthew Smith, CEO at Fortify Rights.
Old men were decapitated, and young girls were raped, their headscarves tore off to use as blindfolds, witnesses and survivors said. Doctors Without Borders estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya, including 730 children, suffered violent deaths from late August to late September 2017. Roughly 200 Rohingya settlements were completely razed from 2017 to 2019, the United Nations said.
In a report published last year, a fact-finding mission for the United Nations Human Rights Council said “there is a serious risk that genocidal actions may occur or recur and that Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide.”
Fortify Rights also urged that the two former soldiers be tried by the International Court of Justice and put them in the witness protection program.