QUESTIONS have been raised as to whether the Burmese (Myanmar) government is changing witness accounts about the rape of Rohingya women presumably by the Burmese military.
Residents and refugees have long accused the military of killing, raping and detaining civilians while burning villages in northwestern Rakhine State.
Aung San Suu Kyi has formed a commission to determine if the rapes had occurred. However, as the BBC World Service points out, the commission’s integrity has been under question.
The commission collects its data by going around the Rohingya village asking for eyewitness accounts as to if rape had occurred.
The BBC claims the state broadcaster had used incorrect subtitles during an interview with an eyewitness. They claim the state broadcaster had omitted a portion of what the witness had said when she was asked if she had witnessed a rape happening.
The state broadcaster’s subtitles stated that the eyewitness had not seen any evidence of rape but is how the conversation actually went:
Commission representative: Did you see if those women were raped or not?
Eyewitness: I did not.
Commission representative: So it’s not true.
Eyewitness: Yes and no… They were bleeding directly from here (she points to between her legs)
Commission representative: Don’t say that. Don’t say bleeding. Just say whether you saw the rape or not.
The government, which is led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San, vehemently denies the accusations. They insist the counter-insurgency operation underway is in accordance with the law.
This comes after the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma said during her recent trip to Burma that she found government claims that the Rohingya have burned their own houses “quite incredible”.
Yanghee Lee suggested that recent footage of police beating Rohingya villagers could be “not an isolated incident, but a more common practice”.
The UN Rights official also criticised the Burmese government’s crackdown on the minority and warned that the Burmese government’s dismissal and denial of allegations by the Rohingya in Rakhine of the atrocities committed towards them are counter-productive.
Authorities say the military launched a security sweep against the Rohingya in response to what they claim was an attack by Rohingya insurgents on border posts near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh in Oct last year.
Nine police officers were killed in the attack, while at least 86 people have been killed in the sweep. The United Nations estimates at least 65, 000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in the wake of the sweep.
Lee insists the attacks on border posts happened within the “context of decades of systematic and institutionalised discrimination against” the Muslim minority.
“Desperate individuals take desperate actions,” said Lee.
Lee’s visited the north of Rakhine earlier this month, where the military operation is taking place, as well as the commercial hub Yangon, the capital Naypyitaw and Kachin State in the north, where government forces are battling ethnic Kachin guerrillas.
She will present her report to the UN Human Rights Council in March, which will include her observations and recommendations to the Burmese government.
Additional reporting by Reuters