The Myanmar army’s counter-assault on ‘terrorists’ unleashed hell upon the townships mainly inhabited by Rohingya Muslims


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Part I: The Seeing Eye – It was a Friday, a slow day in the newsroom.

The weekend did not usually offer much to report, except a few road crashes and police raids. But a notification popped up. It was the Reuters news agency. Security posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state were again under attack by ‘Muslim insurgents’.

“A major escalation of violence in the troubled state,” it said as it counted the casualties, but it seemed the scarcely-armed attackers were suffering more casualties, of course. “This is not good, for us,” I announced to a colleague, also strapped to the news desk on the weekend of Aug 25, 2017

He answered with a sigh. “More work for us.” In case anyone is wondering, Bangladesh is Myanmar’s western neighbour. And we were seated in its capital city, Dhaka. To be honest, we did not know enough about this neighbour.

Hardened by our daily battles, we didn’t surprise easily. But in the coming days, Bangladesh learned more about Myanmar than ever before, and it left us in shock.                                                                                                                                                                      ***                                

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The Myanmar army’s counter-assault on ‘terrorists’ unleashed hell upon the townships mainly inhabited by Rohingya Muslims. The stories of mass murder, gang rapes and all-out devilry committed by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist civilians in Rakhine is now well known to the world.

The Rohingyas dragged themselves across our southern border to live with us in Bangladesh. The Naf, a river in between, washed up dead bodies in the hundreds. The terrified and displaced resembled us and spoke a dialect naturally understood by Bangladeshis who live in areas bordering Myanmar. But the rest of Bangladesh needed translations.

So, the regular Joe in Dhaka found out that the Rohingyas are also accused by the Myanmar side of being Bangalees. What were they even talking about? How annoying! Something like this had also happened the year before. Attacks by ‘Muslim insurgents’ on border posts had led to a smaller influx in October 2016.

Bangladesh has time and again dealt with the Rohingyas fleeing death and persecution, starting in the mid-70s.

And it is not like we did not know about the registered camp for Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar. We only knew them in relation to ‘fear factors’ – squalid living condition, spike in crime rate, methamphetamine mules, stealthy attempts to assimilate and pose as voters and worst of all, threats of Islamist radicalism.

For us, the café attack marked the year before the mass exodus. Despite the success of counterterror raids, terror was still on our minds. But Bangladesh proved more pragmatic than others when it came to protecting the people no-one wanted.

It stepped into its grown-up shoes. It already had ambition. It wanted to become a donor to its own development.

But the challenge now was to save over a million people who fled ethnic cleansing. And to make sure they returned home safe. Tough, but not impossible.                                                                                                                                                                                                       ***

The crisis happened uncomfortably close to the 2019 election. Some people forgot why rice was more expensive. They blamed it on the Rohingyas. The two floods that devastated crops earlier that year had receded from memory.

Bangladeshis, who demanded the border be flung open to the refugees, were among those worried that they would never leave. Some accused aid agencies of wanting to make their stay permanent. Opportunity controlled their loyalty to the cause. But for the community surrounding the thousands of acres freshly allocated for the newly-arrived Rohingya had causes for worry.

The lush reserve forest was gone. Schools were taken over for relief work. The cash-strapped refugees were selling relief. They also worked for very little money.Also, the “unrefined” Rohingya scared the locals, shocked to hear the slang of their neighbours from Myanmar in regular usage.

But members of the host communities proved themselves as brave. It is evident in how the neighbourhoods in Cox’s Bazar, also those surrounding the refugee settlements, came to be represented in the camps. Work here was tough. Bad roads, filthy sewers, steep climbs, mind-numbing heat and the density of the air caused by tens of thousands always out and walking. Here, men and women got jobs as teachers, social workers and health workers for the numerous charities working in the camps.                                                                                            ***

My turn came in the first week of October. The sky was pouring over Kutupalong, now one of the world’s largest refugee camps. I was struggling to cross the hills that made up the mega labyrinth. I took a wrong turn and was trying to find the track that disappeared in a sea of mud.

When I looked up, I realised I was on a ridge. Naked hills that looked like massive waves of mud spreading out before me. And there were sheds, as far as my eyes went. Those square piles of bamboo. And inside each, there were families. At least a few hundred were within my sight.

That is when I realised something. There was barely any sound. Nothing but the rain that fell on plastic roofs and the mud. I have never seen so many of hundreds of people sitting in serene silence. Smiling children sat at doorways, watching the rain fall on hills. An air of resolution, was it? For a people who have always lived in fear?                                                                                                                                                      ***

The Rohingyas, arriving in long queues, finally vetted and released by the border guard, had features frozen and sucked dry. Their eyes, like blank screens, did not really see me. Maybe they were revisiting moments—“murdering soldiers inside the house, the bushes where we hid.”

The faces of the newly-arrived remained this way for days. Before going to the camps, I was glued to the photos foreign journalists were taking of the newly-arrived Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.

The otherwise uneventful sub-district, became a hub for the world media. Everybody was busy capturing the chaos. The Rohingya fell on the shores of Shah Pariri Dwip. Smoke rose from the hills on Myanmar’s side, across the Naf River. The soldiers were burning villages.

For photojournalists roasting in the sun, it was all worth it. After a hard day’s work, they returned to the hotels that lined the beach in Cox’s Bazar town. At night, along with local fixers, some patrolled the marine drive, hoping a boat full of Rohingya would show up. And they sometimes did. Career bests.

I shouldn’t be too critical. Humanity and fearless journalism were also there. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. The Rohingyas were obedient subjects. They made the job easy for journalists looking to deliver the ultimate shock. Bangladesh restricts publication of photos and other identifiers of rape victims. The stigma and threat of more attacks aren’t imaginary.

I refuse to believe I was the only one screaming, but it still happened. Some were extreme. They brought back English release forms signed by victims. Then a photo of the form and the clueless victim. Just to be safe.

A Rohingya woman, who never imagined she would come across white westerners, let alone discuss how the Myanmar men took turns in raping her, all the while trying to surpass any justifiable reservation she might have about describing the details to a local translator, was just happy to share her weeping face with the world.

Yes, the refugees have mobile phones. They can help each other access our reports. Border guards in Bangladesh and Myanmar also watched. In December, a group of men who made rafts to help trapped refugees cross the Naf went into hiding. “The journalist did not blur their faces!” said a famous photographer. “Now both sides are looking for them!”

I was not surprised. A few days back, I was seeing a report from Shah Parir Dwip shot with night-vision cameras. A pair of genitals flashed on screen for several seconds. A Rohingya man in a skirt-like lungi. In a rush to escape soldiers, he had hurriedly climbed onto a boat. The camera was on the deck.

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I do not know why it was not edited out. I was oddly conscious of this ‘lesser status’. Almost like children, who are swindled and left behind.

Part II: Maniacs

I always thought, Bangladesh and Myanmar were like two sides of a coin—forever looking away. But it may have been just us.Even for the men of Myanmar’s medieval-style army, foolish enough to believe that burning, killing and raping so-called terror suspects, serve as effective ways of curbing insurgency, what began on Aug 25 was still an overreach.

Dhaka has dealt with unruly neighbours, Pakistan for its hostile influence on domestic politics. India, for all the promises it cannot keep. But Myanmar is something different. The recluse seemed to be holding a grudge. But why?

One wonders if the latest blow it landed on Bangladesh, was only for itself or a third party too. It really was strange. But in the days following Aug 25, as refugees began arriving on Bangladeshi shores, its friends also started acting strange. It is important for any Bangladesh government to appear successful in relationship to India, that giant of a neighbour.

But New Delhi snubbed Dhaka, as if it caught a contagious disease. As if to further confirm that it was indeed not taking in any Rohingya, it began the process to expel the small group of Rohingya refugees it shelters. Narendra Modi, Hasina’s Indian counterpart, flew to Nay Pwi Daw, on the way back from Beijing, and almost basking in the reception of a government committing genocide did not utter the word Rohingya.

Dhaka also did not place first in China’s list of priorities, despite it being ‘the new strategic ally’. Beijing quite naturally shielded Myanmar because it was a necessary component of its economic and military vision of the region.

But something extraordinary happened. Bangladesh was the only country acting like a grown-up, despite the air growing thick with fear of terror and border conflict. But the ‘ultimate plan’ for Rohingyas, the perfect scenario envisioned by Myanmar, has been known to researchers for years.

General Thein Sein, the country’s eighth president, mentioned a surrogate setup for the Rohingyas, very much like what was happening now. The Yale School of Law quoted him in a speech from 2012:

“The solution to this problem is that they can be settled in refugee camps managed by UNHCR, and UNHCR provides for them. “If there are countries that would accept them, they can be sent there.”

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In order to ceaselessly continue the treatment of the Rohingya in the six decades that passed after the group as a whole was ‘erased’, requires something beyond hate. It needed evil, or the absence of empathy. But how do regimes maintain it?

Myanmar can to do anything it wants with the Rohingyas, but the nature and amount of punishment it handed down to countless civilian men, women and children is enough to demoralise its soldiers.

Because killing at random, raping sex slaves, forcing children into labour, constantly restricting travel, keeping away health, education services and killing those who gather to religious pray – would destroy the discipline that guides a modern army.

There is an answer. It is rooted in the extreme nationalism which began in the days when it still called itself Burma. It requires the digging up of a depressing colonial history.                                                                                                                                                                            ***

Burma was the largest province of British-run India after its annexation in 1824. Its population was, however, paltry compared to the neighbouring province of Bengal. In 1908, Burma only had nine million people while Bengal had 75 million, Akhilesh Pillalamarri, an international relations analyst writes in The Diplomat.

So the majority Bamar feared “demographic replacement” and criticised the British over its ‘open-door policy’ to South Asian migrants. For anyone aware of Myanmar’s official Rohingya rhetoric, these views on unwanted aliens from the past century should ring many bells.

The racial slur ‘Kala’ dates back to colonial times. But it remains the household slang the Burmese use to refer to South Asians. It is also a slur we share today with the Rohingyas in Myanmar, even used by state-run news media.

U Ba Sein was a Bamar heading one of many groups demanding separation from India. In 1933, he wrote a letter to the British Secretary of State for India, saying “destitute Indians have come over to our shores to exploit our labour and lands”.

The British eventually separated India from Burma in 1937. Among the causes was fear of more Burmese hostility. It was Bamar retaliation to Indian migrants that gave rise to anti-immigration rhetoric and to Burmese ethno-nationalism. The modern ‘Kala’ is familiar today, noted the Myanmar Frontier on the 80th anniversary of the separation.But as far as claims are concerned, Burma can lay none on the state of Rakhine, where it has cornered and then massacred the Rohingyas.

Arakan was an ancient sovereign state ruled by Buddhist kings, who once famously balanced the ambitions of Burmese kings and the Moghuls in Bengal. The Rohingyas call it home, laying claim to the faith that came as early as the 8th, 12th and the 13th century, with Muslim traders and sailors who settled among Rakhine Moghs.

Muslim officials held powerful positions in the illustrious courts of Arakan, and the kings would even use Muslim titles next to their traditional Buddhist ones. But Arakan fell when Burma finally managed to invade it in year 1784. The kingdom and its diversity were lost.

Refugees from Arakan poured into Chittagong, in a southern stretch of land, where the Rohingyas now stay. Cox’s Bazar got its name from Captain Hiram Cox, the British lieutenant who organised their relief. Arakan’s diversity was not enshrined by any present state. The region’s common history, unlike its hate, proved less relevance for modern dwellers.

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What survived was Burma’s old, anti-immigration rhetoric. A research by the Yale School of Law, offered many examples. It was 2012, the year of deadly riots over a Burmese woman whose alleged rape and death was blamed on Rohingya men in pamphlets circulated by Burmese groups.

In faraway Nya Pwi Daw, a lecture titled ‘Fear of Extinction of Race’ was being presented at the Myanmar military headquarters.One of the slides said “Bengali Muslims” were stealthily spreading their religion. Their numbers could soon eclipse the Buddhists living in Yangon and Mandalay.

The speaker did not have proof. Nor did the Rakhine men who circulated the pamphlets, but sparked a mad frenzy of killing that happened over months. The Yale research also included a testimony of a Rohingya refugee, who spoke to Fortify Rights after escaping to Malaysia.

It was an event from October 2012, that catastrophic year. The village where it happened was Mrauk-U, ironically the name of last Arakan dynasty. In a meeting called by the military, the villagers “were asked to accept that they were Bengali and did not belong in Rakhine. The villagers refused.” “Twenty days later, the village was burned down.”                                                                                                                 ***

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was always more suited to be the West’s favourite. But in keeping with inevitability, the spot again fell vacant. After decades of fighting for democracy in Myanmar, living under dictators since independence, she had warmed up to the generals she replaced as ‘de-facto’ leader.

The democracy activists who struggled with her, but served long terms in actual prison were disgusted. Speaking to the Associated Press, they claimed to have sensed in her an authoritarian streak. But it was the Bangladesh prime minister who was chastised as being too authoritarian.

It started when death sentences were ordered for many self-proclaimed war criminals, whose judgment Bangladesh had anticipated since independence. Suu Kyi and Hasina, they were similar yet different. Their fathers led independence movements, but were assassinated before fully realising their achievements.

After which, their daughters both spent years away from homeland. Upon return they led mass movements and eventually became elected leaders. “Suu Kyi… we thought she was with us, but she was always with her own kind. But your Hasina, she is the king,” said a Rohingya man in a green shirt.

The sun was blazing over Balukhali makeshift settlement camp and I did not realise the men sitting under the shop were Majhis, or block leaders, holding their meeting. The men didn’t mind the interruption. They asked me to sit with them.

Everyone spoke, but among them one, a Majhi in a green shirt stood out. His dialect was less convoluted and closer to Bangla proper. I understood him clearly. An ‘old refugee’, meaning someone who crossed over before Aug 25. He said he had been living in Chittagong before moving to the Balukhali camp.

“If you did not let us in, our people would have been dead on that river. Your country saved us because we are humans, not because we were Muslims,” said one of the refugees. I smiled. But then I thought of those who did not want him here. I see them trolling newspaper posts and charity organisations.

Pushback could have been resumed and coupled with a tougher stance towards Suu Kyi and General Min Aung Hlaing, some boldly asserted. Dhaka just has to get Nay Pwi Daw’s respect.

Is that what happened in 1978, when the then Bangladesh government, according to the Human Rights Watch, withheld food from the refugee camps? Facing condemnation, Myanmar did take back the Rohingya, but by then 12,000 died of starvation, reports the HRW.

I hope that is no longer in our character. I asked the Majhis whether they want to go home. I already knew the answer. Anyone I had spoken to so far, be it child or adult, said something like this: I want to go home, but I can’t. Not unless we are given citizenship.

There were some exceptions. The most memorable response came from a young woman I interviewed last year. She was gang-raped and, in the mad frenzy of leaving Rakhine, separated from her elderly parents. “I will die here. I will starve here, but I will never, ever go back.”

The thoughts of home brought instant glows to the faces of the Majhis, ignoring their meeting in my honour. Then it was again the man in green, who said, “But here my children go to school. You see… people don’t respect us, because we are smaller. We are uneducated. “I don’t want my children to miss the opportunity of becoming a real person. But here we have no work, we just feel useless.

So, if I go back I will only do so because I miss working in my home. But only if they make us citizens.” I told him I doubt Myanmar would change easily. Or else why would it commit to ethnic cleansing only to agree to take them back in a few months?

The truth is, I was afraid for so many I had met. “How will you ever trust them, the soldiers and the police? Are you not afraid that they will do this again?” The Rohingya Majhis spoke in unison: “That’s why we have to be citizens!”

I didn’t understand how that provided any assurance. Anything allowance from Myanmar to the Rohingyas seems highly suspect. “Our children will be police one day. If we are citizens, they will do jobs in the government. Like old times. They will protect us,” the man explained. “But how on earth…” I started, before trailing off with a simple ‘okay’.

Soft light filled the shop. The Rohingya Majhis stood in a semicircle before me. Big smiles and eyes that never closed surrounded me like planets in a galaxy. “I really hope you are right,” I said.

Samin Sababa is a journalist and currently a Senior Sub Editor at bdnews24.com

Source: https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2018/11/03/foreign-ministry-calls-in-unhcr-chief-in-bangladesh-over-rohingya-comment


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ROHINGYA PERSECUTION IN MYANMAR: It is Genocide, not ethnic cleansing

ROHINGYA PERSECUTION IN MYANMAR : It is Genocide, not ethnic cleansing

The persecutions of the Rohingyas were being committed by the Myanmar army and other security forces under the guise of maintaining “national security” for years. Recently, one United Nations Special Rapporteur visited Myanmar and published a report on the findings of the interviews of some of the victims who left Myanmar and are living at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh as refugees (henceforth, UNOHCHR).

UNOHCHR portrayed the narratives of the victims regarding their dreadful experiences of the crimes committed by the Myanmar army. This report also gives indication of the violations of human rights as the “Crimes against Humanity” occurring in Myanmar against the Rohingyas. As a whole, the UN reemphasised the recognition of the Rohingyas as one of the most persecuted minority groups in the present world.

On the other hand, like many other countries, the United States formally viewed the persecutions against the Rohingyas in Myanmar as “ethnic cleansing”. Even the term “ethnic cleansing” has been used to qualify the current persecution of the Rohingyas by the UN, nation states and international civil society organisations.

In this regard, the judgment of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on the State Crimes Allegedly Committed in Myanmar against the Rohingyas, Kachins and Other Groupsvery lucidly mentioned that ‘the expression “ethnic cleansing” has no formal status in international law.’ The Tribunal further added that the term “ethnic cleansing” has been and still is invoked by the perpetrators of the crime of genocide.

It has been exemplified in the said judgment that President Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia conspicuously used the term “ethnic cleansing” to ‘rationalise and justify’ the acts of genocide in order to avoid potential sanctions. This leads us to wonder as to whether the Myanmar authorities are committing currently committing “genocide” or merely “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingyas? Of course, the answer to this query has serious legal consequences.

2017 Rohingya crisis

Since August 2017, about 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from from the northern Rakhine State of Myanmar to escape a military crackdown. The Human Rights Watch reported that minimum 288 villages were totally or partially ruined by fire in northern Rakhine State after the said period of time. The UN indicated the persecutions of the Myanmar army against the Rohingyas as an undeniable “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” that amounts to the crime of genocide.

The Rohingyas including men, women and children reached southern Bangladesh risking death by sea or on foot. About 58 percent of all the Rohingyas who have fled from Myanmar since August 2017 are children whereas 60 percent of the adults are women. The Kutupalong refugee camp, situated beside Teknaf Highway in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, is the largest camp.

Rohingya persecution: Genocide?

According to the Judgment of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on ‘State Crimes Allegedly Committed in Myanmar against the Rohingyas, Kachins and Other Groups’ at the University of Malaya, Faculty of Law (18-22 September 2017), the term “ethnic cleansing” is an ‘oblique expression’ which is generally used to avoid the liability of committing the “crime of genocide” or any other mass “violations of human rights”. This expression has not gained any formal status in the contemporary international law.

     On the other hand, the Genocide Convention defined the “genocide” for the first time denoting the same as a punishable offence. Under the purview of Article II of this Convention, the definition of genocide can be characterised by two constitutive elements namely: (i) the actus reus of the concerned crime; and (ii) the mens rea of the crime that is specifically “intent to destroy” wholly or partly an indelible group i.e. national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

Both Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948 and Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998, define ‘genocide’ as: ‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

Killing members of the group
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

Do the Rohingyas belong to an indelible group?

The Rohingyas who used to live in Myanmar, the Buddhist-majority nation of 50 million people, are known as the indigenous people to Rakhine. They purportedly trace their origin to Arabs, Bangalees, Moors, Moghuls, Persians, Patthans and Turks. Most of the Rohingya people practise Islam as their religion albeit there are a few Rohingya-language speaking Baruas and Hindus. They speak Rohingya, an Indo-European language nearly linked with the Chittagonian language, and have common cultural trials.

As regards the protected group(s), there is no generally or internationally accepted definition of the term “group”. Earlier the term “group” would refer to mean only a stable and permanent group. However, the International Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the cases of Blagojovic & Jokic, Brdjanin, Jelisic and Stakic and the International Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the cases of Muvunyi, Gacumbitsi, Semanza, Rutaganda, Musema, Kamuhanda, Seromba, Ndindabahizi and Kajelijeli established that the determination of a group is to be made on a case-by-case basis, consulting both objective and subjective criteria. As far as ethnic group is in concern, the ICTR defined ethnic in the cases of Akayesu, Kayishema and Ruzinadana, and Nahimana as a group whose member shares a common bond, common language and culture. In other words, an ethnic group is generally understood as one whose members share a “common language and culture” and a group identified by others including the perpetrators of the alleged crimes.

Hence, in view of the use of common language and share of common culture, it is categorically contemplated that the Rohingya population primarily belong to the “ethnic group” for their distinctive culture and language, and substantially to the “religious group” which is Islam.

Are the actus reus elements of genocide committed against the Rohingyas present in Myanmar?

Based on the incidents of the crimes committed against the Rohingyas, apparently the first three methods of committing genocide discussed in the following are relevant to explore the issue of presence of actus reus of genocide in Myanmar:

[i] Killings of the Muslim Rohingyas

The legal perspective of committing genocide by “killing” requires proving that the perpetrator intentionally killed one or more members of a particular group. In the cases of Bagosora, Ntagerura, Simba, Muvunyi, Seromba, Gacumbitsi, Kamuhanda and Semanza the ICTR held that in cases of genocide the prosecution bears the burden of proof to show that the perpetrator participated in the killing of one or more members of the protected group. In the case of Blagojevic & Jokic the ICTY held that the term “killing” can be equated with murder.      From the UNOHCHR report, it has been brought into being that the Myanmar military forces have been committing ‘mass gang-rape, killings including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations’ against the Rohingyas in the northern Rakhine State to a greater magnitude. Most of the respondents reported witnessing killings of their family members. Many reported that some of their family members were still missing. They also expressed that many children ‘including an eight-month old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old’ were ‘slaughtered with knives’. Hence, it can certainly be established that the “killing” element is present in the first place to cause genocide against the Rohingyas by the Myanmar army.

[ii] Causing serious bodily or mental harm to the Muslim Rohingyas

As per the incidents of rape of Rohingya women, another method of committing genocide which entails an intentional act or omission causing serious bodily or mental suffering can be taken into account. The “harm” inflicted needs to be serious only; however, it does not require being permanent and irremediable in nature that would necessarily cause death of the victim. Concerning “bodily harm”, it is well-established that causing serious injury to the health or disfigurement or any other serious injury to the external, internal organs or senses would amount to bodily harm.

In contrast, the terms “mental harm” means causing hurt on the mental aptitudes which leads to create strong fear or terror, intimidation or threat among the population of a particular group. For illustration, it has been settled that the serious bodily or mental harm may include: the ‘acts of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual violence comprising rape,’ ‘interrogations combined with beatings, threats of death,’ ‘forcible transfer’ and ‘deportation.’

Taking into account the UNOHCHR Report, it is noted that ‘of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence.’ Specifically, a respondent testified that her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man killed her by slitting her throat using a long knife.

Likewise, another respondent reported that when she was gang-raped by five security officers, her eight-month-old baby was killed. Thus, the happenings of rape of Rohingya women indeed cause both “physical and mental harm” to the members of the Rohingyas which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the group.

[iii] Deliberately inflicting on the conditions of life of the Rohingyas to destroy the group

            From the legal point of view, concerning the above-mentioned circumstances, it can be argued that the Myanmar army deliberately inflicted the conditions of life to destroy the group. In the case of Stakic the ICTY held that the expression i.e. “calculated to bring about its physical destruction” does not necessarily mean that the perpetrators would directly kill the members of a group. Rather, the ICTY in the Brdjanin case and the ICTR in the Kayishema and Ruzindana cases held that the creation of a situation that would lead to slow death due to ‘lack of proper housing, clothing and hygiene, or excessive work or physical exertion’ suffices to establish this method.

At this instant, according to the UNOHCHR Report, the Myanmar army, police and the civilian mobs burned hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques in different times. They also confiscated the livestock and ruined the foods as well as the sources of foods containing paddy fields.

Therefore, the destruction of the properties of the Rohingyas which are necessary to meet their basic requirements leads to conclude that the said element of genocide committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar is present.

Are the elements of mens rea of genocide committed against the Rohingyas present in Myanmar?

As regards the “mens rea” of genocide, two elements have to be satisfied as discussed below i.e. whether the perpetrator intended to destroy any of the protected group(s) wholly or partly; and whether the conducts are being committed in the context of a manifest pattern of similar conduct directed against that group:

[i] Intention to destroy the Rohingyas

In relation to the goal of genocide to destroy the target group, wholly or partially, in the ICTR cases of Seromba, Simba, Gacumbitsi, Bagosora, Ndindabahizi, Nahimana, Nchamihigo, Rutaganda, Muvunyi, Kamuhanda, Kajelijeli, Kayishema & Ruzindana, Mpambara and Muhimana and in the ICTY cases of Krstic, Brdjanin and Jelisic it was decided that the intent of the perpetrators to destroy such group(s), wholly or partially, can be inferred from the facts and circumstances of the case. As per Brdjanin case of the ICTY, the existence of “destructive intent” gives the crime of genocide particular character.

Now, in so far as the intention of the Myanmar military is concerned, it is stipulated in the UNOHCHR Report that the UN Human Rights officers visited Bangladeshi border with Myanmar where about 66,000 Rohingyas have fled since October 2016 after the intense military operations. The military indicated the operations as “area clearance operations” with the purpose of substantially destroying the Muslim “religious group” as well as Rohingya “ethnic group” of Myanmar in the name of upholding “national security”.

[ii] Manifest pattern of similar conducts

Regarding the requirement of “manifest pattern of similar conduct”, in Al Bashir case, the ICC held that the ‘the crime of genocide is completed when the relevant conduct represents a concrete threat to the existence of the targeted group, or a part of thereof.’ The ICTR in Rutaganda case held that the evidence of genocide can be demonstrated from the consistent pattern of similar conduct by the accused. Alternatively, the ICTY in Krstic case and the ICTR in Muvunyi and Seromba cases held that there is no numeric threshold of victims necessary to establish genocide. The ICTR cases Ndindabahizi and Gacumbitsi further held that killing of only one person may amount to genocide in appropriate cases.

Now, it has been quoted in the UNOHCHR report that:

‘[m]any witnesses and victims also described being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up, such as being told “you are Bangladeshis and you should go back” or “What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?”’

In view of this, such respondents’ testimonies can be pointed out that the operations of October 2016 follow a continuing “pattern of violations and abuses”, “systematic and systemic discrimination”; and various policies of “exclusion and marginalisation” executed against the Rohingyas for decades in the northern Rakhine State. Hence, it is also irrefutable that the Myanmar military have been committing the concerned crimes against the Rohingyas following a manifest pattern of similar conducts.

Therefore, in conclusion, the presence of both mens rea (intention to destroy the Rohingya “ethnic group” and/or “religious group”), and actus reus (killings, causing serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting the conditions of life of the Rohingyas) makes it clear that the Myanmar military and other security forces have surely committed genocide, and not ethnic cleansing, against the Rohingyas. It is stressed here that there is no international treaty that specifies a specific crime of ‘ethnic cleansing’ under the international law. Therefore, legally speaking, what has been happening in Myanmar is simply genocide and the state of Myanmar must bear the full extent of state responsibility for such heinous crime under the international law. So, let us call a spade a spade—it is genocide, and not ethnic cleansing!

Tureen Afroz
Prosecutor, International Crimes Tribunal, and
Professor at the Department of Law, East West University

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Source: https://turningpoints.bdnews24.com/2018/rohingya-persecution-in-myanmar/ 

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Aid groups say Rohingya ‘terrified’ about Myanmar repatriation

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 Aid groups say Rohingya ‘terrified’ about Myanmar repatriation

  AFP   – Published at 11:28 am November 9th, 2018 

File Photo: Rohingya refugees protest in the demand for safe repatriation in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar on August 27, 2018 Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation agreement to allow Rohingya to return but many fear going back without guarantees of citizenship, freedom of movement and safety

 A plan to start repatriating Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar is premature and the refugees are “terrified” about leaving Bangladesh where they sought refuge, dozens of aid agencies working in the region said Friday.

More than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh after a heavyhanded army crackdown in August that survivors say involved mass rape and extrajudicial killings.

UN investigators say that the country’s military leaders should be investigated for genocide but Myanmar has rebuffed the calls, arguing it was only defending itself against Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.

Both Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation agreement to allow Rohingya to return but many fear going back without guarantees of citizenship, freedom of movement and safety.

However the governments said in recent weeks that they were pushing ahead with the first large-scale repatriation in mid-November, prompting an outcry from advocates who say conditions on the ground in Rakhine are not adequate.

“They fled to Bangladesh to seek safety and they are very grateful to the Government of Bangladesh for giving them a safe haven,” the group of 42 aid agencies and civil society said in a statement that referred to the push as “dangerous.”   “They are terrified about what will happen to them if they are returned to Myanmar now, and distressed by the lack of information they have received.”

Oxfam, World Vision and Save the Children were among the groups working in Myanmar and Bangladesh that signed the statement.

They said refugees fear living in enclosed settlements like more than 120,000 Rohingya in central Rakhine state, who have been confined to camps for six years since intercommunal violence erupted in the region in 2012.

Northern Rakhine state has been largely sealed off since the crackdown except for highly organized government trips for media and senior visiting diplomats.

The UN has been granted access to the area to help assess conditions on the ground but the approvals have been slow and the amount of territory limited.

Authorities in Bangladesh worry that Rohingya may once again risk travelling to other parts of Southeast Asia by boat, a route previously popular as a way of seeking economic opportunities outside the grim camps. This week Bangladesh’s coast guard rescued 33 Rohingya and detained six alleged human traffickers from a fishing trawler headed for Malaysia in the Bay of Bengal.

Tags: Myanmar, Rohingya Refugees, Rohingya Repatriation

Source: https://www.dhakatribune.com/world/south-asia/2018/11/09/aid-groups-say-rohingya-terrified-about-myanmar-repatriation

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Bangladesh ‘silent on Canada offer to take Rohingyas’

Bangladesh ‘silent on Canada offer to take Rohingyas’

Thomson Reuters Foundation . Phnom Penh | Update: 09:50, Nov 09, 2018

     Major Rohingya refugee camp populations in Bangladesh. Photo: AFP

Bangladesh did not accept an offer by Canada to take in Rohingya refugees, including women who were raped, Canadian officials said, as the South Asian country pushes ahead with controversial plans to repatriate the displaced to neighbouring Myanmar.

A settlement for Rohingya arrivals in Thang Khali, Bangladesh. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar in what United Nations officials have called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” — File photo

Several requests for comment were made to government officials in Bangladesh. A foreign affairs ministry spokesman and the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner declined to comment.

Canada offered to take in a limited number of vulnerable refugees, including victims of sexual violence, in May when foreign minister Chrystia Freeland visited Bangladesh, according to Canadian officials, adding that the proposal still stands.

“Freeland said Canada was willing to discuss cases with Bangladesh,” a Canadian official involved in the response to the Rohingya crisis, speaking anonymously due to the sensitivity of the issue, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“(Bangladesh prime minister) Sheikh Hasina said officials would look into it,” he said, adding that discussions between the two government were ongoing, facilitated by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar urged Bangladesh on Tuesday to drop plans to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine state this month, warning they would face a “high risk of persecution”.

More than 700,000 Muslim Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar, UN agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 were followed by a sweeping military response.

Experts working to protect Rohingya refugees said traumatised women who had been raped by Myanmar soldiers – some of whom have been ostracised after giving birth in the sprawling Bangladesh camps – would benefit from resettlement in Canada.

“It is the humanitarian thing to do,” said Laetitia van den Assum, a former Dutch diplomat who served on an international panel headed by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to advise on the crisis in Rakhine state. “If limited resettlement opportunities are available for this particular group, Bangladesh should think again and issue exit visas.”

The UN has documented a “frenzy of sexual violence” by Myanmar soldiers against Rohingya women and mass killings, calling for senior generals to face genocide charges. Myanmar rejected the findings as “one-sided”.


Bangladesh is home to the world’s largest refugee settlement, providing sanctuary to about 900,000 Rohingya, UN figures show, some of whom fled earlier waves of military violence in Myanmar in 1978, 1991 and 1992.

It has consistently pursued repatriation, rather than permanent settlement in Bangladesh or third countries, undertaking large-scale returns whose “voluntariness was seriously questioned”, UNHCR said in a 2011 report.

Prime minister Hasina said in September that the Rohingya must return to their own country because Bangladesh does not have any policy of local integration. She also called on Myanmar to abolish laws that discriminate against the minority.

Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya a native ethnic group, with many calling the Rohingya “Bengalis”, suggesting they belong in Bangladesh.

Canada was one of the top providers of asylum to Rohingya refugees until Bangladesh stopped the programme, saying it could encourage more people from Myanmar to leave their homes to seek asylum in the West. Canada resettled more than 300 people from camps in Bangladesh between 2006 and 2010, Shannon Ker, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said.

Bangladesh has not issued exit permits for the resettlement of Rohingya refugees to other countries since 2010, she said. The UNHCR asked Bangladesh in February to allow it to negotiate with Canada, the United States and some European countries to resettle around 1,000 Rohingya refugees.

Guillaume Berube, a spokesman for Canada’s foreign affairs ministry, confirmed that “the offer was made” to accept a number of Rohingya refugees, but declined to comment on Bangladesh’s response as it was “confidential”.

Beatrice Fenelon, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said Canada’s latest Rohingya plan was similar to a 2017 initiative to resettle 1,200 Iraqi Yazidis – particularly rape victims – targeted by Islamic State, or Daesh.

“As we did with the resettlement of survivors of Daesh, our intent is not to resettle large portions of these communities, but rather to focus on the small number of people for whom resettlement is the best option,” she said.

But Bangladesh “is not issuing exit permits”, she said. Rohingya refugees are still arriving in Bangladesh and rape survivors are a priority for overseas resettlement, said UNHCR spokeswoman Caroline Gluck. “Repatriation or permanence in the country of asylum may result in additional risk and further traumatisation,” she said. 

Topics: Rohingya, Rohingya crisis, Rohingya repatriation

 Source: https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/186149/Bangladesh-%E2%80%98silent-on-Canadian-offer-to-take

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Bangladesh rescues 33 ‘Malaysia-bound’ Rohingya from sea

07 November 2018 – 19H13

 Bangladesh rescues 33 ‘Malaysia-bound’ Rohingya from sea

© AFP/File | Authorities in Bangladesh worry many refugees may risk travelling to South-East Asia by boat,a route once popular among Rohingya seeking economic opportunities outside the grim and crowded camps

COX’S BAZAR (BANGLADESH) (AFP) – Bangladesh’s coast guard rescued 33 Rohingya and detained six alleged human traffickers from a fishing trawler headed for Malaysia in the Bay of Bengal, an official said Wednesday.

The rescued included 14 men, 10 women and nine children who had been living in refugee camps in the southeastern Bangladesh district of Cox’s Bazar, according to Fayezul Islam Mondol, coast guard commander in the southeastern coastal town of Teknaf.”We have captured six traffickers as well. All of them are Bangladeshis,” he told AFP.

Some 720,000 refugees of the persecuted Myanmar minority have taken shelter in Bangladesh camps since August last year. They fled what the UN has described as ethnic cleansing in Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, and have joined some 300,000 refugees already living in camps in Cox’s Bazar.

People smugglers in recent years have sent tens of thousands of Rohingya from the Bangladesh camps to Malaysia, before Bangladesh launched a crackdown in 2015 after Thai authorities discovered mass graves and boats overcrowded with thousands of migrants drifted at sea.

Mondol said the Rohingya rescued Wednesday had boarded a dilapidated fishing trawler on an uncertain “sea voyage to Malaysia”. The boat was intercepted Wednesday evening by a coast guard boat near Saint Martin’s Island, the last territory of Bangladesh, situated only a few kilometres (miles) away from Myanmar’s Anauk Myinhlut coastline.

One of the arrested traffickers, Abdus Shukur, 55, told AFP that the fishing trawler had been due to transfer the Rohingya to a bigger Malaysia-bound ship moored neared the island in the Bay of Bengal. “We were forced by an influential local to take these (Rohingya) people on the fishing boat. We were instructed to board them on an awaiting ship near Saint Martin’s,” Shukur said.

Authorities in Bangladesh worry many refugees may once again risk travelling to South-East Asia by boat, a route previously popular among Rohingya seeking economic opportunities outside the grim and crowded camps. Most voyages take place between November and March when seas are most calm.

A local government official said with the approach of winter, traffickers were now trying to lure Rohingya again to the dangerous boat journeys. “The sea is getting calm and there are high demand among the refugees to travel to Malaysia,” Teknaf mayor Abdullah Monir said. “The traffickers are therefore taking the opportunity to float their boats again,” he said.

On Tuesday, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) detained 14 Rohingya on Teknaf coast who had allegedly been cheated by human traffickers. Local BGB spokesman Major Shariful Islam said they paid nearly $120 each to a fellow refugee in Kutupalong, the largest Rohingya refugee settlement, to be sent to Malaysia. “But the man sent them to a brief boat journey and later dropped them off Teknaf coast after three days,” Islam said. © 2018 AFP

Source: https://www.france24.com/en/20181107-bangladesh-rescues-33-malaysia-bound-rohingya-sea


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Myanmar officials try to convince Rohingya to return, accept ID cards

Home > Rohingya Crisis

12:12 PM, November 01, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:31 PM, November 01, 2018

Myanmar officials try to convince Rohingya to return, accept ID cards

UN refugee agency says conditions in Rakhine state ‘not yet conducive for returns’

A Rohingya refugee woman (R) speaks to Myanmar’s Foreign Secretary Myint Thu (L) and Myanmar’s envoys during their visit at a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar on October 31, 2018. Photo: AFP

Reuters, Dhaka/Yangon

Myanmar officials visited camps for Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh yesterday in an effort to kickstart a process to repatriate hundreds of thousands who fled an army crackdown last year.

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar, UN agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 triggered a sweeping military response.

Officials said after meetings in Dhaka on Tuesday returns would begin next month, but the UN refugee agency said conditions in Rakhine state were “not yet conducive for returns”.

The agency had completed the second phase of assessment in Rakhine, but its access remained “limited”, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in Geneva on Wednesday. Rohingya and other Muslims in three townships suffer hardship and economic vulnerability due to restrictions on their movement and the prevailing sentiment is “fear and mistrust”, he said.

A Rohingya refugee carries two children in buckets as they arrive in Bangladesh at Shah Porir Dwip in Teknaf on September 9, 2017, as they flee violence in neighbouring Myanmar. /AFP                                                                          

 A group of about 60 Rohingya community leaders met a delegation of about a dozen Myanmar officials in the Kutupalong camp, the largest refugee settlement in the world in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar district, said two Rohingya men who were present. Myanmar says it has been ready to accept back the refugees since January, and has built camps near the border to receive them.

Myint Thu, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Myanmar delegation, said Myanmar had verified about 5,000 names of refugees and that repatriation would begin with a first batch of 2,000 returnees in mid-November. “We are here to meet with the people from the camps so that I can explain what we have prepared for their return and then I can listen to their voices,” he told reporters in Cox’s Bazaar.

Bangladesh handed over an additional list of more than 22,000 Rohingya refugees to be verified by Myanmar, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam told Reuters.


 Rohingya leaders said after Wednesday’s meeting that they were unconvinced about the proposed repatriation. “They told us we don’t have to stay (in a camp) for long, but when we asked for how many days they could not say,” said Mohib Ullah, an influential organiser in the camps, reflecting what the officials said.

Mohib Ullah said Rohingya leaders wanted Myanmar to recognise them as an ethnic group with the right to Myanmar citizenship before they return. Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya a native ethnic group. Many in the Buddhist-majority country call the Rohingya “Bengalis”, suggesting they belong in Bangladesh.

The third JWG meeting of the foreign secretary-level, held at State guesthouse Meghna in Dhaka city, was co-chaired by Permanent Secretary Myint Thu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and his Bangladesh counterpart Senior Secretary M Shahidul Haque of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNB reports.

A pamphlet given to refugees by Myanmar officials on Wednesday, seen by Reuters, encourages them to accept new identity cards as a “first step” to citizenship. Many Rohingya reject the cards, which they say treat them as foreigners.

Those with “national verifications cards” – known as NVCs – would be guaranteed “socio-economic development”, but those without will be “stateless”, the pamphlet says. “When we asked about our citizenship there was no answer,” said Abdur Rahim, another Rohingya at the meeting. “They told us to accept NVCs. We are not accepting NVCs. We are not Bengali.”

The Rohingya leaders handed over a letter to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi setting out their demands, including “compensation and reparations” for violence committed against Rohingya. UN rights investigators said in August that Myanmar’s military acted with “genocidal intent” in the crackdown last year.

The administration of Nobel laureate Suu Kyi has denied most of the allegations, arguing it was a legitimate response to quell “terrorism”. China, which has provided diplomatic cover to Myanmar over the exodus, has brokered talks with Bangladesh aimed at speeding up repatriation.

Western countries and the United Nations, while calling for accountability for abuses committed by the military, have stressed that any returns must be voluntary. The repatriation faces resistance from Rakhine Buddhists who make up the majority in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which the Rohingya also consider their homeland.

Than Tun, a Rakhine community leader, said those who return should be confined to a part of the Maungdaw area close to the border and not allowed to resettle some formerly Muslim-majority areas.”We Rakhine don’t want them to come back at all, but we understand there’s international pressure,” he said, adding anyone who does return should be placed in “certain secure locations”.

Related Topics: Myanmar Rohingya refugee crisis, Rohingya repatriation

Source : https://www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-crisis/news/myanmar-officials-try-convince-rohingya-return-accept-id-cards-1654732

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A Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military

A Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military

October 16, 2018

Members of the Myanmar military were the prime operatives behind a systematic campaign on Facebook. — File photo

Members of the Myanmar military were the prime operatives behind a systematic campaign on Facebook that stretched back half a decade and that targeted the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group.

By Paul Mozur

NAYPYIDAW, MYANMAR — They posed as fans of pop stars and national heroes as they flooded Facebook with their hatred. One said Islam was a global threat to Buddhism. Another shared a false story about the rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man.

The Facebook posts were not from everyday internet users. Instead, they were from Myanmar military personnel who turned the social network into a tool for ethnic cleansing, according to former military officials, researchers and civilian officials in the country.

Members of the Myanmar military were the prime operatives behind a systematic campaign on Facebook that stretched back half a decade and that targeted the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group, the people said. The military exploited Facebook’s wide reach in Myanmar, where it is so broadly used that many of the country’s 18 million internet users confuse the Silicon Valley social media platform with the internet. Human rights groups blame the anti-Rohingya propaganda forinciting murdersrapes and the largest forced human migration in recent history.

While Facebook took down the official accounts of senior Myanmar military leaders in August, the breadth and details of the propaganda campaign — which was hidden behind fake names and sham accounts — went undetected. The campaign, described by five people who asked for anonymity because they feared for their safety, included hundreds of military personnel who created troll accounts and news and celebrity pages on Facebook and then flooded them with incendiary comments and posts timed for peak viewership.

Working in shifts out of bases clustered in foothills near the capital, Naypyidaw, officers were also tasked with collecting intelligence on popular accounts and criticizing posts unfavorable to the military, the people said. So secretive were the operations that all but top leaders had to check their phones at the door.

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar after crossing into Bangladesh last year. — NY Times                                      

Facebook confirmed many of the details about the shadowy, military-driven campaign. The company’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said it had found “clear and deliberate attempts to covertly spread propaganda that were directly linked to the Myanmar military.”

On Monday, after questions from The New York Times, it said it had taken down a series of accounts that supposedly were focused on entertainment but were instead tied to the military. Those accounts had 1.3 million followers.

“We discovered that these seemingly independent entertainment, beauty and informational pages were linked to the Myanmar military,” the company said in its announcement.

The previously unreported actions by Myanmar’s military on Facebook are among the first examples of an authoritarian government’s using the social network against its own people. It is another facet of the disruptive disinformation campaigns that are unfolding on the site. In the past, state-backed Russians and Iranians spread divisive and inflammatory messages through Facebook to people in other countries. In the United States, some domestic groups have now adopted similar tactics ahead of the midterm elections.

“The military has gotten a lot of benefit from Facebook,” said Thet Swe Win, founder of Synergy, a group that focuses on fostering social harmony in Myanmar. “I wouldn’t say Facebook is directly involved in the ethnic cleansing, but there is a responsibility they had to take proper actions to avoid becoming an instigator of genocide.”

In August, after months of reports about anti-Rohingya propaganda on Facebook, the company acknowledged that it had been too slow to act in Myanmar. By then, more than 700,000 Rohingya had fled the country in a year, in what United Nations officials called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The company has said it is bolstering its efforts to stop such abuses.

“We have taken significant steps to remove this abuse and make it harder on Facebook,” Mr. Gleicher said. “Investigations into this type of activity are ongoing.”

The information committee of Myanmar’s military did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A settlement for Rohingya arrivals in Thang Khali, Bangladesh. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar in what United Nations officials have called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” — File photo                                                         

The Myanmar military’s Facebook operation began several years ago, said the people familiar with how it worked. The military threw major resources at the task, the people said, with as many as 700 people on it. Read more ›

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Rape by Command
Pre-planned Expulsion
Witness to horror
The Rohingyas
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