New proof of Rohingya purge plan

Only ashes remain: A file photo of the remnants of a Rohingya village that was burnt down by the Myanmar military near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine State, in 2017. — Reuters

In mid-2017, in a remote area of Myanmar, senior Burmese military commanders held secret talks about operations against the minority Rohingya Muslim population.

They discussed ways to insert spies into Rohingya villages, resolved to demolish Muslim homes and mosques, and laid plans for what they referred to as “area clearance”.

The discussions are captured in official records seen by Reuters.

It was critical, they said, that operations be “unnoticeable” to protect the military’s international image.

Weeks later, the Myanmar military began a brutal crackdown that sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

The military has insisted the operation was a legitimate counter-terrorism campaign sparked by attacks by Muslim extremists, not a planned programme of ethnic cleansing.

But official records from the period ahead of and during the expulsion of the Rohingya, like the ones in 2017, paint a different picture.

The records are part of a cache of documents, collected by war crimes investigators for the past four years and reviewed by Reuters, that reveal talks and planning around the purges of the Rohingya and efforts to hide military operations from the world.

The documents show how the military systematically demonised the Muslim minority, created militias that would join anti-Rohingya operations, and coordinated their actions with ultranationalist Buddhist monks.For the past four years, these war crimes investigators have been working secretly to compile evidence they hope can be used to secure convictions in an international criminal court.

The documents were collected by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, a non- profit founded by a veteran war crimes investigator and staffed by international criminal lawyers. — Reuters

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