By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Human rights activists across the world have expressed concerns over the release of seven Myanmar soldiers who murdered 10 Rohingya Muslims in a 2017 military crackdown in its western Rakhine state.
“The only reason these seven soldiers were arrested is because Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo exposed these cold-blooded murders in an investigative news story that could not be refuted,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch tweeted.
Reuters in an exclusive story published on Monday said that Myanmar has granted early release to the jailed soldiers.
The report added that the soldiers were freed in November 2018, which means they served less than a year of their 10-year prison term.
Last year, Reuters published photos of the Rohingya men bound together watching their Buddhist neighbors dig a grave for them.
After publishing this report, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oowere were arrested by Myanmar’s police on charges of obtaining state secrets and placed behind bars for more than 16 months. The two were released in on May 6 this year and were awarded a Pulitzer for their journalism.
“More than anything, the early release of these seven soldiers reveals Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing [Myanmar army chief] and Tatmadaw [Myanmar army] commanders don't really consider the Rohingya to be human, and were never committed to seeing anyone held accountable for their crimes in Rakhine state," the Human Rights Watch official added.
- 'Complete impunity'
Maung Zarni, leader of the Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC), a global network of Rohingya activists, accused the Myanmar government of Aung San Suu Kyi of serving complete impunity for murderers.
“How can her International Commission of Enquiry be truthful, credible or trustworthy?” he said.
Likewise, Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, tweeted: “If this is true, why were the soldiers released so quietly without anyone knowing? Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo served 511 wrongful days in prison while the real perpetrators of the killings walk away.”
Tun Khin, Rohingya activist, genocide survivor and president of Burmese Rohingya Organization U.K., termed it as a practice of disgrace.
“Some of the Burmese soldiers who massacred hundreds of Rohingya are free, serving less time than the reporters who uncovered their crimes. Yet more evidence of the total impunity of the military.”
“The killers served less than one year of their 10-year prison terms for the killings -- less than the journalists who exposed the massacre,” Matthew Tostevin, Reuters bureau chief for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, tweeted.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.