Arbitrary executions in Rakhine State must be investigated

October 12th, 2016  •  Author:   Burma Campaign UK  •  4 minute read

Burma Campaign UK calls on the NLD-led government in Burma to establish an independent investigation into who is behind the killings of police officers in Rakhine State on October 9th, and into the subsequent killings of Rohingya villagers in the following days. The families of policemen killed and Rohingya villagers killed have the right to see the perpetrators face justice.

Burma Campaign UK has received reports of arbitrary executions of Rohingya villagers by Burmese Army soldiers, as have Fortify Rights and several media organisations.

A prompt and credible investigation is needed not just in the interests of justice, but also to establish the truth in order to help limit attempts by nationalists to exploit the situation to provoke more violence. An investigation could also help limit further executions by demonstrating a small degree of accountability for soldiers via an investigation exposing their actions, even if prosecutions are not possible without the consent of the military.

Burma Campaign UK is very concerned by the response of the international community to date. A statement on the situation by the European Union made no reference to reports of arbitrary executions. Silence on issues such as this simply reinforces the view of the military that it can act with impunity. The role of the European Union is not only to “stand with Myanmar” as they say in their statement, but also to stand with victims of human rights violations and against violations of international law.

A statement by the UN Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Myanmar was even more alarming, going so far as to praise the response, stating he “recognizes the prompt action and sober response of the security forces”, and also avoiding direct reference to reports of arbitrary executions.

A statement by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar “expressed to the authorities her condolences for the death of the border guard police personnel and is deeply saddened by all loss of life”. Reports of arbitrary executions were only indirectly referred in the statement to as an “unfolding situation”.

None of the statements used the word Rohingya, a key demand of racist nationalists who are trying to deny the ethnic identity of the Rohingya as part of their efforts to drive all Rohingya people out of Burma.

The new crisis in Rakhine State highlights how the new NLD-led government is hamstrung and unable to comprehensively deal with many problems in the country, if it wanted to, by the military 2008 Constitution. It does not have direct control over the military, police and other security services.

The international community has been trying to present the situation in Burma as moving from being focussed on democracy promotion and human rights to one of consolidating transition, development, and technical assistance. The situation in Rakhine State and escalating conflict in eastern Burma expose how flawed this approach is. The military remain unaccountable, are blocking democratic reform, escalating conflict, and committing human rights violations including violations of international law.

The British government should reassess its provision of training to the Burmese Army in light of these latest reports of arbitrary executions by soldiers. The training was established with no preconditions on respect for human rights, no clear objectives and no evaluation of outcomes.

“A transparent and credible investigation is urgently needed into events in Rakhine State in the past few days,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “While it is not yet clear exactly who was responsible for killing the police officers, it does seem clear that unarmed villagers have been killed in response. The Rakhine Commission was a welcome step but is largely looking at long term solutions and won’t even report until well into next year. The new crisis also highlights how action to address the crisis in Rakhine State needs to start now, including the lifting of all humanitarian aid restrictions.”