Ahead of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 26 February, 102 Parliamentarians across parties have signed a letter urging the Foreign Secretary to publicly support and campaign for his EU counterparts to back a UN Security Council referral of Myanmar General Min Aung Hlaing to the International Criminal Court.
The United Nations has now documented more than 688,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh since the Myanmar military began their offensive against Rohingya civilians in August 2017. Médecins Sans Frontières have recently documented almost 7,000 Rohingya civilians were killed in just one month last year, including 730 children.
On 11th September UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein described the military’s security operations as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” On 18th December he went a step further and described the military campaign as one in which “you cannot rule out the possibility that acts of genocide have been committed.”
In the letter, the Parliamentarians say:
“We welcome the diplomatic leadership the United Kingdom has shown so far in response to this crisis by securing a statement from the UN Security Council, and building international consensus on steps needed to be undertaken by the government of Myanmar. We also welcome the £59 million in UK aid that has been donated so far. However, the demands of the UN Security Council have largely been ignored. Now it is time to go further.”
“It is time for the British government to unequivocally state that the situation in Myanmar should be referred to the International Criminal Court”
“The British government should also work to secure agreement that the European Union bans the supply of all equipment to the Myanmar military, not just arms, and ends all military training and co-operation programmes.”
2) You can find more information on Rushanara’s work in Parliament here:
3) Following the Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh where he saw the scale of destruction of Rohingya villages and met refugees, Rushanara published an article in the Guardian on the urgent need for an ICC referral. You can read that article here.
4) You can read a recent article by Human Rights Watch on the case behind an ICC referral here.
Burmese military response:
On 27 February 2018, MPs from the British Parliament International Development Committee were banned from Burma shortly before a planned visit. The MP letter above was cited as a reason for denying the MPs a visa, and on 6 March the military released the media release below:
Tatmadaw True News Information Team
News release on the act of British MPs in connection with Rakhine issue and the decision of European Union Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Myanmar
Nay Pyi Taw March 6
- European Union Foreign Affairs Council held its meeting with the participation of the ministers of foreign affairs of the European Union-EU on 26 February 2018. The meeting reached a conclusion that continued help must be provided to Bengali refugees, the media and the fact-finding mission of the UN Human Rights Council must be rendered freedom and cooperation, continued cooperation must be made with the special rapporteur on human rights, the verdict under the power of the International Criminal Court-ICC must be accepted, the defence cooperation with Myanmar must be reduced to the lowest level, the proposal to impose targeted restrictions and sanctions on senior officers of the Myanmar Tatmadaw who are responsible for human rights violations must be presented soonest.
- Such a decision at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council meeting was triggered by 102 MPs of the House of Commons led by MP Rushanara Ali who submitted a letter to British Secretary of State Boris Johnson. The letter made a demand to exert more pressures on Tatmadaw leaders in connection with the Rakhine issue and to transfer them to the ICC and to discuss the issue at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
- The report also launched an accusation saying that over 688,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh due to offensive launched by the Myanmar military against Rohingya civilians, that according to the Bangladeshi government the number of refugees reached its country exceeded one million, that
tens of thousands of Rohingyas were fleeing Myanmar every week, that they were facing violence, intimidation and destruction of their property and belongings, and that news were appearing that they could no longer live in their homes because of pressures. Moreover, Medicins Sans Frontieres said that nearly 7,000 Rohingyns including 730 children were killed within a month in 2017, that the actual number could be higher than its estimation, and that military and security personnel and military-supported groups and people’s militia raped hundreds of Rohingya women.
- The report also stated that the government had no means to guarantee a safe return of the Rohingya refugees as it could not control the Tatmadaw and that although the government is nearly two years old, except from forming committees it could not do anything to improve the civil rights and humanitarian issue of the Rohingya in Myanmar. The Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services is enlarging the conflict with ethnic groups without any restrictions and threatening and disturbing the peace process. For the first time in many years, more military jets are being used to cause more civilian deaths and injuries. The military-appointed ministries are terribly disturbing and destroying the reform proposals of the democratically elected government.
- The report continuously uses the term “Rohingya” which is totally unacceptable for all the people of Myanmar. The accusations made in the report are the same old ones that have been made since the start of the Rakhine issue. Press meets and the press releases of the government have already declared that the said accusations are wrong and the Tatmadaw True News Information Team has released for ten times the true situation of Rakhine issue.
- In fact the conflicts broke out in Buthidaung-Maungtaw region of Rakhine State in 2012, 2016 and 2017 after Myanmar democracy transition in 2010 were not started by ethnic natives or security forces including the Tatmadaw. They were ignited by the illegal Bengalis migrants who have been unlawfully living in the area for many consecutive years. The 2012 crisis broke out when Bengalis raped a native Rakhine woman and the 2016-2017 conflict broke out when armed Bengali terrorist group launched synchronized attacks against the police border guard headquarters and police outposts. During the conflict, nine Tatmadaw members, 21 police security personnel totaling 30 and 21 natives, 52 Hindus, 51 Muslims totaling 124 lost their lives. Ethnic natives and Hindus became homeless as they had to flee their homes. The government and the Tatmadaw have already released information about the events. ARSA, an extremist Bengali terrorist group has already committed that it launched all the terrorist attacks. ARSA also brutally murdered people of its own race and religion in Buthidaung-Maungtaw region. The government and the Tatmadaw conveyed the diplomats, local media persons and international media persons to conflict zones to know the truth. Sadly the report totally ignored the terrorist acts of Bengali terrorist and made one-sided accusations against the security forces doing their work in accord with the law. During the terrorist attacks occurred on 26 August 2017, about 4,000 extremist ARSA terrorist launched a well-planned attacks using excessive force.
The conflicts have complicated and long historical back-grounds. This must be known. After the 1824 First Anglo-Myanmar War the British government imported Bengalis from the Bengal region of India to use as farm laborers in Rakhine State. They settled in the state and their population grew. Rakhine-Bengali conflict started when those Bengalis attacked and drove out native ethnics from their homeland. 152 Rakhine villages were destroyed in Alethankyaw incident in 1942 which displaced over 100,000 Rakhine people and left over 20,000 dead. Mujahid armed insurgency and Rohingya National Liberation Army emerged after Myanmar gained independence, and attempted to establish Buthidaung, Maungtaw and Rathaedaung townships in Rakhine State as Arkistan or Rohingya State. Every country in the world has its own citizenship laws and citizenship eligibility criteria, and as citizenship will be granted to eligible ones only through citizenship verification process, Bengalis were time and again urged to accept citizenship verification process, but they have rejected so far. And it is undeniable truth of the history that they have tried every trick in the book including violence to establish Buthidaung and Maungtaw as their foothold, stronghold and liberated area step by step.
- Extremist Bengali terrorists launched coordinated attacks on a border police headquarters and three police outposts on 9 October, 2016, in which ten police were killed, five injured and 68 firearms and ammunitions were lost. During the unrest, 79 locals were killed and 37 went missing.
- In the terror attack on 25 August, 2017, extremist Bengali terrorists led by ARSA launched coordinated attacks in 37 villages including an army headquarter and 30 police stations, with 500 to 700 Bengalis in each place with swords, spears, improvised explosive devices and other weapons. There were 38 engagements in single day, and one security personnel, ten policemen, a staff member of Immigration Department, totaling 12 were killed, and scores were injured, and six small firearms were seized from police outposts by Bengali terrorists.
- To investigate if security personnel responded in line with existing laws and procedures, Rule of Engagement (ROE), and instructions of Commander-in-Chief (Army) Office as regards to 2016 October attack, the 12-member Rakhine State Investigation led by Vice-President U Myint Swe was formed on 1 December, 2016, a Tatmadaw investigation body led by Lt-Gen Aye Win of Commander-in-Chief (Army) Office on 17, February, 2017 and another investigation body led by Police Brig-Gen Win Tun of Myanmar Police Force on February 9, 2017. Actions were taken in line with law in three cases discovered by the Tatmadaw investigation body. The investigation body led by Lt-Gen Aye Win was also assigned to investigate if Tatmadawmen performed their duties in line with law regarding August incident in 2017. Moreover, field investigation was made and action was taken in response to the case of Inn Din Village.
- Tatmadaw investigation body met and questioned 195 ethnic people from two ethnic villages, 205 Hindu villagers from two Hindu villages, and 2,817 villagers from 54 Bengali villages, totaling 3,217 residents in Buthidaung and Maungtaw townships, and could collect the testimony of 804 witnesses. According to the hard evidence found by the Tatmadaw investigation body, at least 10,000 to maximum 20,000 Bengalis participated in attacks on police outposts on 25, August, 2017 though the number was first estimated to be just around 4,000. After 9 October attack, ARSA extremist Bengali terrorist leader Ataullah appointed terrorist leaders in villages and village-tracts. The name list of those leaders has been exposed. Through those leaders, terrorist groups were formed on a wide scale based on Mawlawi and village administrators. Those who are close to government departments, those who rejected giving allegiance to or joining the terrorist group, and those refused to attend the terrorism training were brutally killed by slitting their throats. Moreover, Bengalis were forced to swear by the Quran to join the terrorist group, and as a result, the majority of villagers in every Bengali village were forced to join the terrorist group.
- According to the accounts of 2,817 villagers of 54 Bengali villages and testimony of 362 villagers of 105 Bengali villages, it was found that security personnel did not commit extrajudicial killings or sexually abuse and rape women. There was no unlawful detention of people, beating, killing and arson as well. According to the testimony of Bengali villagers in conflict area, terrorist leaders at different levels made preparation and ordered simultaneous attacks. The attack was not successful though hardcore members of ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists, many villagers and even the children joined the attack. So ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists set fire to houses and fled to Bangladesh first. They also threatened, coerced and persuaded other villagers to flee to Bangladesh, and many fled as a result, it was found.
- Extremist Bengalis arrested 52 Hindu residents of Ye Bauk Kya Village and 53 Villagers of Kha Maung Seik (South) Village on 25, August, 2017, and looted their property, and broke apart altars and Buddha images and burned down citizenship scrutiny cards. They cruelly tortured 45 residents of Ye Bauk Kya Village, and made them lay by pits and brutally slit their throats in front of Hindu women from Ye Bauk Kya Village and eight women from Kha Maung Seik (South) Village. Of 105 abducted Hindu followers, 60 remain missing whereas remaining Hindu women were forced to convert to Islam and brought to Bangladesh. Moreover, a group of terrorists attacked and set fire to seven Mro ethnics from Khonetine Village, BadakaVillage-tract, Maungtaw Township, on 29 August. It was found that with the intent to gain power and influence, ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists killed a total of 131 local ethnics, Hindus and Bengalis by slitting their throats. Although ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists committed genocide and ethnic cleansing on a minority of ethnic people in Buthidaung-Maungtaw region, those who living at refugee camps of the other country, as instructed by them, accused the Myanmar Tatmadaw of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing when foreign diplomats and journalists made visits there.
- The Tatmadaw acted in line with the existing military and civilian laws during the Rakhine crisis. An investigation team led by a lieutenant general was formed to check whether security troops committed crimes or not. The team made practical field trips and announced their findings in a transparent manner. Action was taken against those security forces who committed such a crime in accord with the existing laws. The duties of the commander of Western Command, who took charge of Rakhine security affairs, were terminated as he had weaknesses in his actions over the issue. Legal action was taken against seven officers and other ranks and three police members in line with the existing laws. Civilians who got involved in the case faced legal actions at respective civilian courts. Action is being taken against Bengalis in accord with the existing laws as well. Despite these efforts, mistakes of individuals are being exaggerated and accusations have erupted that the whole Tatmadaw committed a crime.
- The Tatmadaw carries out state defence and security duties systematically only after presenting reports to the government. In the Rakhine conflict, as directed by the government, the Tatmadaw reduced from military operation to security and control operation. The government for its part is making plans to reaccept the Bengalis who fled to the other country after the Buthidaung-Maungtaw conflict and carry out national verification process in accord with the law. Actually, those Bengalis fled to the other country only after 5 September 2017 when there were no more clashes. As the majority were close to ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists, they fled for fear of investigation and legal action or due to the persuasion that they would have the chance to go to third country. Talking about the family members of an offender, according to figures from the Labour, Immigration and Population Ministry in 2016, a family has 20 to 30 members on average. So there would be 200,000 family members if there were 10,000 attackers. Therefore, they might have fled together with their family members and relatives. Tatmadaw members are law-abiding citizens who stick to four oaths to even sacrifice their lives for the state and the people and who follow existing state laws, international laws and military laws. In the 2008 State Constitution, Section 338 states that All the armed forces in the Union shall be under the command of the Defence Services while Section 341 says that the Defence Services shall render assistance when calamities that affects the Union and its citizens occur in the Union. According to these provisions, the Tatmadaw is protecting the administrative machinery, rule of law and all the people from the danger of terrorists.
There were no orders and actions leading to violations of the existing laws. But legal action was taken against those who made mistakes amid their eagerness to protect the local and ethnic people. When it comes to the internal peace process, the Tatmadaw worked patiently in the hope of achieving eternal peace that the country really needs, and ten ethnic armed groups have signed the NCA so far. The Tatmadaw exactly follows the already agreed points and the NCA provisions based on the six-point peace policy of the Tatmadaw. Practically, the Tatmadaw is working together with the people in ethnic areas by placing emphasis on regional peace and ending conflict.
- A PBS news crew based in Thailand made an interview with some members of ARSA terrorist group who are staying at the camps in Cox’s Bazar on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. In their news story, they said groups of five had been formed under ARSA. Members of those groups had to do what the leader they had never seen asked. In every of 40 villages in Maungtaw, there were 100 to 200 ARSA members. They were holding discussion about a plan to form an ARSA extremist terrorist group with those living abroad. The story was published in February this year.
- Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Commander in Chief (Army) Vice-Senior General Soe Win received Mr. Stavros Limbrinidis, an EU special representative for Human Rights, and party at the Bayintnaung Villa on 5 March evening. Both sides discussed attacks by ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists in Rakhine State in 2012 and 2016 and 25 August 2017, the reasons why hundreds of thousands of Bengalis fled to Bangladesh, the response of fleeing Bengalis and the other country to the Myanmar government’s preparations to re-accept them, the reasons why they don’t want to be back to Myanmar, the exaggerated news released by international media, diplomats and NGOs, Bengalis and the other country, actions of Tatmadaw and security troops in their clearance operations in line with the orders and instructions, investigation over following of the rules and orders and actions against some Tatmadawmen and members of security force who failed to abide by the rules. During the discussion, evidential documentary photos were also shown.
- The one-sided accusations of British MPs who turn a blind eye to the real situation although there has a lot of strong evidence will badly impact the Tatmadaw’s implementation of rule of law process, state security and participation in the democracy transition in accord with the Rules of Engagement (ROE) over the decisions followed by the EU Foreign Affairs Committee’s meeting; the government’s rehabilitation of Buthidaung-Maungtaw area and re-acceptance of victims. Those accusations may create misunderstanding among international and local organisations which have helped the country’s internal peace-building and peace-making process and general public. It is needed to correctly review the real situation of this issue to make a fair compulsion and decision that is expected to bring about tangible progress for the Rakhine issue.
Tatmadaw True News Information Team