Two Myanmar soldiers have gone on record confirming for the first time the atrocities committed by the army against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority. The two defectors said on camera that they were ordered to carry out mass killings and rape in 2017 which, according to a human rights group, corresponds to accounts by survivors of the attacks in Rakhine state.
NGO Fortify Rights says that the testimony, which also claims that men, women and children were buried in mass graves, could be used as evidence of crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The rights group said that the two soldiers fled the country last month and are said to be in the custody of the ICC in The Hague.
Myo Win Tun and Zaw Naing Tun reportedly gave "the names and ranks of 19 direct perpetrators from the Myanmar army, including themselves, as well as six senior commanders… they claim ordered or contributed to atrocity crimes against Rohingya."
According to Myo Win Tun, the commander of the 15th Military Operations Centre gave an order to "shoot all you see and all you hear" when raiding Muslim villages. They apparently killed and buried "eight women, seven children and 15 men and elderly" in one operation.
"We also raped Muslim women prior to shooting them," he explained. "There were the corporals, sergeants and officers who raped Muslim women. I also raped one time."
The Myanmar government has consistently denied accusations of genocide against the Muslim minority. Earlier this year it claimed that the allegations are based on a "distorted picture of the situation" after the International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar to prevent the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.
The UN says that at least 10,000 people have been killed and more than 700,000 have fled Rakhine state since the military's 2017 crackdown following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) the previous year. Thousands of Rohingya women and girls, it is said, were raped, and between 2017 and 2019, around 200 Rohingya villages were razed to the ground.
ARSA was formed following the Rakhine State riots in 2012 which involved attacks on Muslim villages leaving tens of thousands displaced. Human Rights Watch described the incidents, which were supported by the Myanmar authorities, as "ethnic cleansing".