Myanmar military 'co-ordinated atrocities' against Rohingya, US says

Washington: A US government investigation has found that Myanmar's military waged a planned, co-ordinated campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the south-east Asian nation's Rohingya Muslim minority.

The State Department report, reviewed by Reuters ahead of its expected public release, could be used to justify further US sanctions or other punitive measures against Myanmar authorities, US officials say.

Rohingya refugee Yasmin Akhter, 13, witnessed her parents lying dead in their home in Myanmar and fled to Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugee Yasmin Akhter, 13, witnessed her parents lying dead in their home in Myanmar and fled to Bangladesh.

But it stopped short of describing the crackdown as genocide or crimes against humanity.

The report was released as the US announced it had almost doubled its aid for displaced Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh and Myanmar, as the US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley pushed for UN investigators to brief the UN Security Council on the crisis.

The report findings resulted from more than 1000 interviews of Rohingya men and women in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, where almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled after a military campaign last year in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

"The survey reveals that the recent violence in northern Rakhine State was extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorising the population and driving out the Rohingya residents, the 20-page report said.

"The scope and scale of the military's operations indicate they were well-planned and co-ordinated."

Survivors described in harrowing detail how soldiers killed infants and small children, shot unarmed men, and how victims were buried alive or thrown into pits of mass graves.

Also described was the widespread sexual assault and rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's military, often carried out in public.

One witness described four Rohingya girls who were abducted, tied up with ropes and raped for three days.

They were left heavily bleeding and "half dead," the witness said, according to the report.

Human rights groups and Rohingya activists have put the death toll in the thousands, as a result of the crackdown which was sparked by attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on security forces in Rakhine State in August 2017.

The results of the US investigation were released nearly a month after a team of UN investigators issued its own report accusing Myanmar's military of acting with "genocidal intent".

That report called for the country's commander-in-chief and five generals to be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under international law.

Myanmar rejected the findings as "one-sided" and said it was a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.

"The military are at fault, the fact finding mission came out and gave clear examples of what's happened," Haley told reporters on Monday as she left a ministerial meeting in New York on the sidelines of the annual UN gathering of world leaders. "These weren't terrorists. This was the military that did this to them. These people just want a place to live."

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian hosted the closed-door ministerial meeting on the crisis, which diplomats said focused on accountability.

Haley said the United States would give an extra $US185 million ($255 million) in humanitarian aid, of which $US156 million would go to refugees and host communities in Bangladesh, taking its total for the crisis to nearly $US389 million in the past year.

Haley had said last week that US President Donald Trump would "lay down a marker" on US foreign aid during his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and that Washington would not be generous to countries "that try and stop the US or say they hate America."

Reuters

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