Myanmar military 'still using sexual violence to oppress minorities'

UN report says soldiers guilty of gang rape and other crimes

A Rohingya man carries a bamboo pole at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia. AFP
A Rohingya man carries a bamboo pole at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia. AFP

Myanmar's soldiers are still using rape, gang rape and other sexual violence to oppress minorities, a UN report said on Thursday, two years after a military crackdown in Rakhine state forced 700,000 ethnic Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

Troops and their commanders are acting with impunity, the UN independent fact-finding mission on Myanmar said, but there is no immediate prospect of justice given the country's unwillingness to co-operate.

The brutal tactics are continuing in the northern states of Kachin and Shan, and the severity of the practice in Rakhine state in 2017 showed the Myanmar military’s intent to destroy the Rohingya population, the report released in New York said.

Extreme violence and the openness in which it is conducted reflected a widespread culture of tolerance towards humiliation and the deliberate infliction of severe physical and mental suffering on civilians, it said.

Marzuki Darusman, chairwoman of the fact-finding mission, said the military misconduct was “part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorise and punish a civilian population”.

“The international community must hold the Myanmar military to account for the tremendous pain and suffering it has inflicted on persons of all genders across the country,” Ms Darusman said.

The UN team conducted interviews at refugee camps with hundreds of survivors and witnesses of sexual violence in Kachin and Shan, and in Rakhine, where the military’s “clearance operations” that began August 25, 2017, triggered a mass movement to Bangladesh.

Investigators were refused entry to Myanmar. On the second anniversary of the start of the operations, the report said there was still a need for accountability.

Most assaults reported were directed at women and girls who were beaten, burned with cigarettes, slashed with knives, raped and held as sexual slaves on military bases.

The report also documents cases of rape, forced nudity and the sexual torture of men and boys.

The fact-finding mission one year ago recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the crackdown on the Rohingya.

Myanmar has rejected the report and any suggestion its forces did anything wrong.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees remain in Bangladesh, too fearful to return home.

The fact-finding mission will present its final report to the UN Human Rights Council next month.

Updated: August 23, 2019 07:13 PM


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