Category Archives: South-East Asia – Myanmar (Burma)

Two Myanmar soldiers sent to Hague after Rohingya murder confession.

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The two men reportedly admitted to killing dozens of villagers in northern Rakhine state, burying them in mass graves.

Two Myanmar soldiers have been taken to The Hague after confessing to murdering Rohingya minority during a 2017 crackdown, two news organisations and a rights group have reported.

The two men admitted to killing dozens of villagers in northern Rakhine state and burying them in mass graves, according to the New York Times, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the non-profit Fortify Rights, citing statements the men made on videos filmed in Myanmar this year.

NRM on Tuesday said it has not seen the videos cited by the news organisations.

Noble Reporters Media learnt it could not independently confirm that the two soldiers committed the crimes to which they confessed.

Myanmar government and military spokesmen did not answer calls seeking comment.

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The reports said the men had been in the custody of the Arakan Army group, which is now fighting Myanmar government troops in Rakhine state, when they made the admissions and were later taken to The Hague in the Netherlands, where they could appear as witnesses or face trial.

It was not clear from the reports how the men fell into the hands of the Arakan Army, why they were speaking, or how they were transported to The Hague and under whose authority.

A spokesman for the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, said it did not have the men in custody.

“No. These reports are not correct. We don’t have these persons in the ICC custody,” said the spokesman, Fadi el Abdallah.

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Payam Akhavan, a Canadian lawyer representing Bangladesh in a filing against Myanmar at the ICC, said the two men had appeared at a border post requesting the protection of the government and had confessed to the mass murder and rape of Rohingya civilians in 2017.

“All I can say is that those two individuals are no longer in Bangladesh,” he said.

A spokesman for the Arakan Army, Khine Thu Kha, said the two men were deserters and were not held as prisoners of war.

He did not comment further on where the men were now but said the group was “committed to justice” for all victims of the Myanmar military.

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Myanmar has repeatedly denied allegations of genocide, saying its military operations in 2017 were targeting Rohingya rebels who attacked police border posts.

Speaking from the Hague, NRM official said that the case had been stalled for a long time because Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the basis for ICC. But with Bangladesh being a signatory, the ICC has ruled that is has jurisdiction over the case

Myanmar soldiers on foot-patrol along makeshift tent camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State [File: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP Photo]

“Part of the crimes that happened in Myanmar, were happening in Bangladesh as well. For example, the forced deportations, where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya were deported to Bangladesh. That’s why the case has been speeding up since last November,” she said.

“The court has ordered the investigation to be continued and if we have these two former military men… if they say they were involved and have given a very detailed account of what they did and who was with them, then this will be an enormous move for this investigation.”

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Commenting from Amman, Antonia Mulvey, executive director of Legal Action Worldwide, said that if the evidence turns out to be credible, it would be a huge push for the investigation.

“While the ICC has made no comment on whether or not they have them [the men] in custody, the stories [of the soldiers] are said to be credible and corroborative,” she said explaining that the statements included a mention of ordered killings and rape.

“While they [the soldiers] may be very low in the ranks, we hope more will come forward. There was shown to be a clear chain of command,” she added.

The ICC is investigating the crime against humanity of forced deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh, as well as persecution and other human rights violations.

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“The office does not publicly comment on speculation or reports regarding its ongoing investigations, neither does the office discuss specifics of any aspect of its investigative activities,” a statement from the ICC prosecutor’s office said.

Myanmar is also facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice, also in The Hague, though that body does not bring cases against individuals or hear witnesses.

In 2015, before the alleged 2017 genocide, Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media Investigative Unit revealed the inner workings of the Myanmar regime, drawing on documents from the Myanmar military, an unpublished United Nations report and other government paperwork.

Those documents, assessed by Yale University Law School and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, constituted “strong evidence” of a state-led genocide according to experts.


#Newsworthy…

Facebook preparing to tackle ‘Hate Speech’ in Myanmar.

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Platform, accused of fanning hate towards Rohingya, says it removed 280,000 posts that breached rules in second quarter.


Facebook said on Tuesday that it was preparing for Myanmar’s general election in November by improving the detection and removal of hate speech and content that incites violence, and preventing the spread of misinformation.

The company said in a blog that between now and November 22, it would remove “verifiable misinformation and unverifiable rumours” that are assessed as having the potential to suppress the vote or damage the “integrity” of the electoral process.

“For example, we would remove posts falsely claiming a candidate is a Bengali, not a Myanmar citizen, and thus ineligible,” Facebook said.

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The platform has come under fire in Myanmar over hate speech directed against the mainly Muslim Rohingya over the past decade, including during the brutal military-led crackdown in 2017 that forced more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee the country. Investigators from the United Nations said Facebook played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled the violence.

The company admitted two years ago that it had been “too slow” to address the problem.

A mobile phone user scrolls through Facebook at a shop in Yangon [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

Facebook said it was working with two partners in Myanmar to verify the official Facebook pages of political parties. It now has three fact-checking partners in Myanmar: BOOM, AFP Fact Check and Fact Crescendo.

Violating standards
It also said it introduced a new feature that limits the number of times a message can be forwarded to five.

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The feature is now available in Myanmar and, over the next few weeks, will be made available to Messenger users worldwide, the company added in the blog.

This year’s elections in Myanmar, scheduled for November 8, will be the second since the generals who had led the country for decades ceded power while ensuring their continuing influence through a 25-percent quota of seats in parliament.

The first, in 2016, brought longtime pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power but, during the two-month campaign period, an estimated one million Rohingya were stripped of their right to vote.

Facebook and other social media platforms have faced criticism worldwide in recent years from activists, regulators and governments for the spread of misinformation, including during elections.


#Newsworthy…