SHAFAQNA – Myanmar’s military issued its most forceful denial yet that security forces committed atrocities during “clearance operations” in the west of the country, saying an internal investigation had absolved them of any wrongdoing in a crisis that has triggered the largest refugee exodus in Asia in decades.
The report contradicts consistent statements from ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees now in Bangladesh — some with gunshot wounds and severe burns — who have described massacres, rape, looting and the burning of hundreds of villages by Myanmar’s army and civilian mobs.
The U.N. humanitarian office said Tuesday that the number of Rohingya who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 has risen to 618,000.
In a statement issued late Monday, the military said it had interviewed thousands of people during a monthlong investigation into the conduct of troops in western Rakhine state after Rohingya insurgents launched a series of deadly attacks there on Aug. 25.
While the report acknowledged that battles against militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, had left 376 “terrorists” dead, it also claimed security forces had “never shot at the innocent Bengalis” and “there was no death of innocent people.”
Myanmar’s government and most of the Buddhist majority say the members of the Muslim minority are “Bengalis” who migrated illegally from Bangladesh and do not acknowledge the Rohingya as a local ethnic group even though they have lived in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for generations.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said the military’s latest claims were “contrary to a large and growing body of evidence” documenting severe rights abuses in Myanmar.