Rights experts are again criticizing the Myanmar military for possible international law violations after reports that another civilian died in custody amid fighting between national forces and the Arakan Army (AA) in western Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin states.
According to RFA’s reporting, at least 14 persons died of injuries they received while in military or police custody or detention between March and July during the ongoing armed conflict. Seven were from Rathedaung township, six were from Mrauk-U township, and one was from Kyauktaw township.
Government soldiers have been rounding up men and boys in villages close to battles zones on suspicions of supporting the AA, an ethnic Rakhine military that is fighting for greater autonomy in the state, then holding them in detention and interrogating them.
The latest civilian to die at the hands of soldiers was Zaw Win Hlaing from Shwe Tun Phyu village in Mrauk-U township, who was arrested by soldiers on June 19 as he returned home from another village and was subjected to five days of interrogation. After he died on Monday, his mother told RFA’s Myanmar Service that her son said he was beaten with rocks while in custody.
The Myanmar military has created a three-member investigative panel to probe the conduct of the armed forces during a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state that left thousands dead and forced more than 740,000 to flee to Bangladesh, the country’s commander-in-chief’s office announced Monday.
The campaign of violence by security forces included extrajudicial killings of Rohingya, torture, sexual assaults, and the torching of Rohingya communities, which the government and the army has denied, while defending the campaign as necessary measure to stop a group of military Muslims that conducted deadly attacks on police outposts in the region.
From de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on down, Myanmar has shrugged off credible testimony of the brutality, satellite images of burned villages, and other evidence of atrocities that have sparked calls by rights groups and United Nations officials to bring the perpetrators to justice before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another tribunal.
Against that background, human rights groups were dismissive of the proposed investigation by a Myanmar military that they see as the chief culprit in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya and other atrocities in the country. Earlier investigations by the military were seen by outside experts as a whitewash.