NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 10—Two former soldiers from the Myanmar Army have confessed of involvement of soldiers in mass massacre and rape of the Rohingya Muslims in 2017 genocidal campaign.
The soldiers, who deserted the Myanmar Army, are believed to be in The Hague where the International Criminal Court has opened a case for trial whether Myanmar Army leaders committed large scale crimes against the Rohingyas. The two soldiers have identified themselves as Myo Win Tun and Zaw Naing Tun. While Myo Win Tun admitted involvement in killing Rohingya women, men, and children, as well as rape, Zaw Naing Tun confessed to killings, burying bodies in mass graves and other crimes.
Their confessions have been filmed by the Arakan Army, a group currently engaged in armed conflict with the Myanmar Army in the Rakhine state and it has been posted by www.trtworld.com on its website.
The soldiers in videos are speaking in their local language that has been translated in English. They said that they were directed by their commanding officer to “shoot all that you see and that you hear” in villages where Rohingya Muslims lived.
“The second-in-command of MoC-15, Colonel Than Htike, gave us an order to “shoot all you see and all you hear”, the deserters said.
They also confessed of themselves being involved in genocide and rape of Rohingya Muslims and mass burial of their dead bodies.
“So, we indiscriminately shot at all who arrived in Taung Bazar village when we conducted the clearance operation in Kalar village”, they said, adding “we shot dead and wiped out to the command of kill all irrespective of if they were children or adults”.
They further confessed, “At night we conducted the clearance operation by “shoot all you see and all you hear” and buried 30 bodies in the grave in Tower-Tai street”.
The soldiers confessed of hailing from the ethnic minorities. They say they joined the Army after it promised to give financial aid to their families who are in need. “I joined the Burmese Army after they promised to help my father and mother who were suffering from diabetes and heart disease”, one of the deserters said.
They said they fled after the Army did not keep its promises and abused them. The Army told them that the ethnic armed groups are terrorists. “I am also an ethnic minority from Karen. Other ethnic people in the Burmese army were also oppressed by them (Army)”, said the deserter.
The confessions by the two deserters could be a big step for the Rohingya in their ongoing struggle for justice.
A human rights group Fortify Rights have said that “this is the first public confession from insiders of the Myanmar Army to what essentially amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity”.
“It is a highly significant moment in that regard”, said Matthew Smith, CEO of Fortify Rights.
“Well, to us, these confessions demonstrate what we have known all along which is that the Myanmar military was intent on destroying the Rohingya. Senior commanders were ordering lower level soldiers to carry out orders to massacre and kill Rohingya people”, Smith said in a statement.
More than 700,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape the military’s violent crackdown which the UN has called a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’. And more than 300 Rohingyas reached the shores of Indonesia two days ago, seeking shelter.
However, the Myanmar government has repeatedly denied of genocide, saying its military operations in 2017 targetted Rohingya militants who attacked the border Army posts.