‘Exterminate all’: Rohingya genocide was ordered, say army deserters

London: Two deserting soldiers from the Myanmar army have claimed they were told by commanding officers to "shoot all that you see and hear" during the brutal military operation against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017.

It is the first time members of the military have openly admitted taking part in what a United Nations fact-finding mission has described as a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.

They are reported to have been transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, in what could be a boost in efforts to hold the south-east Asian nation to account.

Privates Myo Win Tun and Zaw Naing Tun have confessed to killing and rape during the Myanmar army Rohingya “clearance operations”.Credit:AP

According to Fortify Rights, an NGO investigating crimes against the Rohingya, who were driven out of Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017, the two soldiers arrived at the Bangladeshi border in August seeking protection.

In footage seen by Fortify Rights, Privates Myo Win Tun, 33, and Zaw Naing Tun, 30, confessed to killing and rape during army "clearance operations", both claiming they were ordered by their commanders to "exterminate all [Rohingya]".

Matthew Smith, of Fortify Rights, said: "This is a monumental moment for Rohingya and the people of Myanmar in their struggle for justice.

"These men could be the first perpetrators from Myanmar tried at the ICC, and the first insider witnesses in the custody of the court."

Ethnic Rohingya people rest after the boat carrying them landed in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province, Indonesia on Monday.Credit:AP

The military purge in 2017 led to around 750,000 Rohingya fleeing rape, arson and murder, taking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, where they continue to languish in squalid camps with little hope of returning home.

The New York Times reported the two men were in custody but not under arrest. Fortify Rights has asked the court to offer them witness protection.

The government of Myanmar, formerly Burma, and its civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate and former human rights champion, have repeatedly denied there was any concerted campaign of atrocities against the Rohingya.

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses judges of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.Credit:AP

Last year Suu Kyi personally travelled to The Hague to defend the country against charges of genocide in a separate case pursued by a Gambian-led prosecution team at the ICC. But in video confessions — which could not be independently verified but which echoed victim testimonies – Zaw Naing Tun confessed to killing, burying bodies in mass graves and other crimes against the Rohingya in five villages in the Maungdaw Township during the 2017 operations.

Myo Win Tun described his involvement in killing Rohingya women, men and children, and admitted rape in Taung Bazar village and surrounding villages in the Buthidaung Township in September of the same year.

The soldiers provided names and ranks of 19 direct perpetrators from the Myanmar Army, including themselves, as well as six senior commanders whom they claim ordered or contributed to atrocity crimes against the Rohingya, including a lieutenant colonel, a colonel, and three captains.

The confessions were filmed separately by the Arakan army — an ethnic armed group currently engaged in conflict with the Myanmar army in Rakhine. Both described the location of mass graves.

"These confessions demonstrate what we've long known, which is that the Myanmar Army is a well-functioning national army operating with a specific and centralised command structure," said Smith.

"Commanders control, direct, and order their subordinates in all they do.

"In this case, commanders ordered foot soldiers to commit genocidal acts and exterminate Rohingya — and that's exactly what they did."

The Telegraph, London

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