HomeTop StoriesInvestigators say Myanmar's military is committing increasingly brutal war crimes

Investigators say Myanmar’s military is committing increasingly brutal war crimes

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s military and associated militias are increasingly committing brutal war crimes, including aerial bombardments targeting civilians, a United Nations-established group of investigators said Tuesday.

The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, or IIMM, said it found strong evidence during the 12 months ending June that the military and militias have indiscriminately and disproportionately attacked civilians with bombs, mass executions of people detained during operations and large-scale burning into civilian homes. .

The group, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 to monitor violations of international law in Myanmar, said it is collecting evidence that could be used in future prosecutions of those responsible.

“Any loss of life in Myanmar is tragic, but the devastation inflicted on entire communities by aerial bombardments and village fires is particularly shocking,” said Nicholas Koumjian, head of the group. “Our evidence points to a dramatic increase in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country, with widespread and systematic attacks against civilians, and we are building case files that can be used by courts to hold individual perpetrators accountable.”

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Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power from the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, sparking mass nonviolent protests that were quelled with deadly force. Opponents of the military regime then took up arms and large parts of the country are now embroiled in conflict, in what some UN experts have characterized as a civil war.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, says security forces have killed at least 3,900 civilians and arrested 24,236 others since the military takeover.

The army-installed government has increasingly launched offensives in the countryside to counter armed opposition to its rule and has attempted to secure territory by launching airstrikes and burning villages, leaving many thousands of people in the fled. The resistance has limited weapons and no defense against air raids.

In April, the military dropped a bomb that the group Human Rights Watch said was an “enhanced blast” munitions known as a fuel-air explosive in an attack on the village of Pazigyi in the Sagaing region that killed more than 160 people died, including many children.

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The attack targeted a ceremony for the opening of a local office of the Government of National Unity, the main nationwide opposition organization that considers itself Myanmar’s legitimate governing body.

In response to abuse allegations, the military government often accuses members of the pro-democracy People’s Defense Forces, the armed wing of the National Unity Government, of terrorism against government-related targets.

IIMM said in a report that the military should have known, or knew, that large numbers of civilians were present at the time of some of its attacks.

It said the incidents it was investigating occurred particularly in the Sagaing and Magway regions and in the states of Chin, Karen and Kayah, the main strongholds of armed resistance against the ruling army.

The group said it based its findings on photos, videos, audio footage, documents, maps, geospatial images, social media posts and forensic evidence from 700 sources, including more than 200 eyewitness accounts.

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There is no information that Myanmar authorities have investigated any military or civilian official for war crimes or crimes against humanity, and ignoring such crimes may indicate that higher authorities intended to carry them out, the report said.

The IIMM said it continues to actively investigate the violence, including sexual and gender-related crimes, committed by the military against the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017.

Since August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya have fled the country for neighboring Bangladesh to escape a brutal anti-insurgency military campaign following an attack by an insurgent group in Rakhine state.

Myanmar’s government has rejected allegations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes during the campaign. The US government has labeled the military’s actions as genocide.

“Sexual and gender-related crimes are among the most heinous crimes we investigate,” said Koumjian. “These were so ubiquitous during the Rohingya clearance operations that most of the witnesses we interviewed have relevant evidence on them.”

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