Myanmar begins rare court martial after inquiry into Rohingya atrocities

Myanmar says international investigations breach its sovereignty and it will carry out its own

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees pray at a gathering mark the second anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar, at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman/File Photo
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Myanmar’s military began a rare court martial of soldiers on Tuesday after an investigation into atrocities during a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, a spokesman said.

Myanmar is preparing to face genocide charges at an international court in the Hague after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape a military offensive launched in August 2017.

UN investigators said campaign was carried out with genocidal intent.

Soldiers, police and Buddhist villagers are accused of razing hundreds of villages in the remote western Rakhine state, torturing Rohingya as they fled, and carrying out mass murder and gang rape.

Myanmar says the army was fighting a legitimate counter-insurgency campaign against militants who attacked security posts.

Soldiers and officers from a regiment posted to Gu Dar Pyin village, the site of an alleged massacre of Rohingya, were “weak in following the rules of engagement”, spokesman Zaw Min Tun said.

In a statement published on its website, the army said the soldiers being tried in the courts martial were involved in “accidents” in Gu Dar Pyin.

AP reported the existence of at least five mass graves in the village, through interviews with survivors in refugee camps in Bangladesh and time-stamped videos.

Myanmar is facing a wave of international pressure over its treatment of the Rohingya, with cases filed against it in courts around the world.

Leader Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of a Nobel peace prize for her past defiance of a military junta that led the country for decades, is set to travel to the Hague for hearings starting in December at the International Court of Justice.

Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African state, lodged a lawsuit accusing the country of genocide after winning the support of the 57-nation Organisation for Islamic Co-operation.

Myanmar says the international cases breach its sovereignty and has vowed to carry out its own investigations. But few have been punished so far.

Seven soldiers jailed for 10 years for killing 10 Rohingya men and boys in the village of Inn Din were granted early release last November after less than a year in prison.

Two Reuters journalists who uncovered the murders spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets, before being released in a presidential amnesty in May.