Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Myanmar releases soldiers who killed Rohingya men after 1 year

The killers served less time than two Reuters journalist jailed for reporting the murders

Myanmar border guard police officers patrol along a beach outside a makeshift camp at the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, near the town of Maungsaw in Rakhine State. EPA
Myanmar border guard police officers patrol along a beach outside a makeshift camp at the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, near the town of Maungsaw in Rakhine State. EPA

Seven soldiers convicted of the murder of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys during the 2017 military crackdown have been released after serving less than a year of their 10-year sentence.

The release means the men served less time than two Reuters journalists jailed after uncovering the killings. The journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.

Win Naing, the chief warden at Rakhine’s Sittwe Prison, and a senior prison official in the capital, Naypyitaw, confirmed that the convicted soldiers had not been in prison for some months.

“Their punishment was reduced by the military,” said the senior Naypyitaw official, who declined to be named.

Military spokesmen Zaw Min Tun and Tun Tun Nyi declined to comment.

The seven soldiers were the only security personnel the military has said it has punished over the 2017 operation in the western Rakhine state that drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. UN investigators said the crackdown was executed with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson.

In 2018, Reuters reported that that soldiers detained a group of 10 Rohingya men who the military said were “terrorists” but family members said were farmers, high school students and an Islamic teachers.

The next morning, witnesses said, Buddhist villagers hacked some of the Rohingya men with swords. The rest were shot by Myanmar troops and buried in a shallow grave.

The two Reuters reporters, discovered the grave and obtained pictures of the 10 men before and after they were killed. The journalists were arrested in December 2017 while investigating the killings and later sentenced to seven years in prison under the Official Secrets Act.

Updated: May 27, 2019 06:45 PM

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