Myanmar security forces took part in killing 10 Rohingya: army

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"Villagers and members of the security forces have confessed that they committed murder", the military said in a statement on Wednesday.

Refugees who have fled in their hundreds of thousands to neighbouring Bangladesh have given consistent accounts of massacres, rape and torture by Myanmar security forces flanked by ethnic Rakhine mobs.

The statement also said that responsible military officials who did not directly commit the killings but failed to supervise the detention and seek instruction from the higher command would also face sanctions.

Both the UN and the United States say the violence that broke out a year ago and resulted in a massive refugee crisis on the Bangladesh border amounts to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya from predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.

Myanmar contends that the operations are legitimate counterinsurgency measures in response to attacks by Rohingya militants on border guard posts in August.

The statement, published Wednesday on the Facebook page of Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, explained that security forces had been conducting a "clearance operation" when "200 Bengali terrorists attacked using sticks and swords". They have long faced discrimination and persecution with many Buddhists in Myanmar calling them "Bengalis" and saying they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, even though they have lived in the country for generations.

The Myanmar statement said that security forces were unable to take the arrested men to the police station because of ongoing attacks and damaged vehicles so a "decision was made to kill them at the cemetery".

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Myanmar terms Rohingya Muslims as Bengalis and does not recognise them as one of its ethnic groups. "This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists".

But Inn Din villager Hossain Ahammad said the slain men were "fishermen, farmers, lumberjacks and clerics".

"Action will be taken according to the law against villagers who were involved and security members who broke the Rules of Engagement", the post added.

His words echoed a comment from the spokesperson from the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Myanmar yesterday, who said: "The (military) statement underscores the need for an independent investigation and media reporting on allegations of such human rights violations". The same officer had been in charge of a wider probe into the conduct of troops in the conflict that concluded in a report in November that no atrocities had taken place.

"This grisly admission is a sharp departure from the army's policy of blanket denial of any wrongdoing", said James Gomez, Amnesty's regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, following the military's announcement.

"However, it is only the tip of the iceberg and warrants serious independent investigation into what other atrocities were committed amid the ethnic cleansing campaign that has forced out more than 655,000 Rohingya", the rights group said in a statement.

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