The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are the most persecuted minority in the world. But while we have all been well aware of the country’s efforts to force the Rohingya out, country officials never admitted to any wrongdoing. Until now.
According to The Independent, Myanmar’s military has admitted to killing at least 10 Rohingya Muslims. The decision to disclose this information comes after the bodies were found in a mass grave and at least five years after international pressure against the country began to mount as officials and Buddhist villagers use rape, abuse, burning of homes, and killings to pressure the Rohingya to leave.
Despite the long period of abuse, this is the first time that the country is willing to acknowledge having taken part in the “clearance operation” they launched against the Rohingya in 2012. So far, over 650,000 people have been forced to flee the country.
The United Nations has called the effort to clear the Rakhine state of Rohingya “ethnic cleansing,” The Independent adds. But after the UN requested Myanmar to allow officials to enter the country so that accusations of human rights abuse could be investigated, Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said that the country would carry its own investigation, refusing to let the UN in.
According to Myanmar’s army commander, the 10 Rohingya found in a mass grave in December had allegedly threatened ethnic Buddhist villagers. Calling the dead individuals “Bengali terrorists,” the army chief said that they will “take charge of those who are responsible for the killings and who broke the rules of engagement.”
Since 2012, hundreds of the Rohingya have been killed following the rape and killing of a Buddhist Rakhine woman. Thousands of other Rohingya, as well as children, have been kept in disease-ridden camps where UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said that shelters “teeter on stilts above garbage and excrement.”
While this admission of guilt is a step into the right direction, it may take much more work to finally see Myanmar admitting to taking part in a massive effort that involves violation of human rights, abuse, and murder to force the Rohingya out of the country.