Myanmar investigation commission begins fact-finding mission in Maungdaw

Members of a Myanmar investigation commission looking into recent violence in Rakhine state’s Maungdaw township set out on a six-day fact-finding mission on Friday to investigate United Nations allegations of human rights violations of Rohingya Muslims by security forces.

A 43-page report issued on Feb. 3 by the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that killings, rapes, and other abuses committed against Rohingya Muslims allegedly by soldiers and police after coordinated attacks on three border guard posts in early October indicate “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

“The U.N. issued this report on Maungdaw, and we decided to find out the truth regarding the allegations,” said commission member Saw Thalay Saw, a member of parliament from Shwegyin in Bago region. “We will be there until the 16th of the month.”

Vice president Myint Swe, who chairs the commission, will not accompany the body’s other members because he is preoccupied with preparations for the country’s Union Day celebrations on Feb. 12, which commemorates the day in 1947 that independence hero General Aung San, father of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, helped to unify the country after the end of British colonial rule.

On Wednesday, Myanmar’s foreign affairs ministry issued a statement in response to OHCHR’s report, saying the government commission will look into the U.N.’s accusations and determine whether there is clear evidence that security forces abused and committed human rights violations in northern Rakhine.

The ministry also said the government will take action against those found guilty of such abuses.

The national-level commission has been investigating reports of murder, torture, arson, and rape in northern Rakhine state since December and has made two other trips to the areas affected by violence.

In January, the commission issued an interim report, saying it had found no cases of genocide or religious persecution of Rohingya Muslims living in the region in the wake of deadly border guard attacks last October and a subsequent security lockdown.

It also said its interviews of local residents about rape allegations by Rohingya women and girls who fled to Bangladesh had yielded insufficient evidence to take legal action, and that its investigations into accusations of arson, torture, and illegal arrests were ongoing.

Protests against radio station

Meanwhile, demonstrators in seven townships in Rakhine on Friday staged protests against a new government-run community radio station that broadcasts in the Rohingya language for Muslims in northern Rakhine state.

May Yu FM radio began broadcasting on Feb. 1 in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships in what ethnic Rakhine people refer to as the Bengali language. It also broadcasts in the Burmese and Arakanese languages.

Myanmar, which views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, has denied members of the minority group citizenship and access to basic services, though many have lived in the country for generations.

Ethnic Rakhine people believe the broadcasts will legitimize the Rohingya, who are not included among the country’s officially recognized ethnicities.

“Even we Rakhines are not fully getting our citizens’ rights, and now they are giving special rights to these Bengali people, Ko Maung Win Naing, a protest organizer from Buthidaung, told RFA’s Myanmar Service, using a derogatory term for the Rohingya.

“It is like a total disregard for local people,” he said, adding that the protesters will accept the broadcasts only if they are in Burmese. The radio program began on Feb 1.

Myanmar’s information ministry said the radio service will provide news and information “to keep up with the times” and to dispel rumors that emerge in the areas affected by violence.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.