BURMA’S (Myanmar) new four-member independent commission set up to investigate abuses against the Rohingya Muslim community is nothing more than a cover-up aimed at obstructing justice rather than holding perpetrators to account, rights groups say.
“This all looks like a new phase in Myanmar’s efforts to obstruct international justice for Tatmadaw [military] and police commanders and troops who committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told ucanews.com on Wednesday.
The commission was set up by Burma’s government after allegations of gross human rights abuses against the Rohingya community in northern Rakhine State.
The United Nations called the military crackdown a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” after the minority group was subjected to mass killings, rape, and torture as their villages were burned to the ground. The violence forced more than 700,000 Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh.
The Tatmadaw (military) has continued to deny the allegations and the government has repeatedly stood in the way independent investigations.
Robertson told ucanews that he believes Burma is still playing games in an attempt to divert attention from a forthcoming report from a fact-finding mission mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council, due to be presented in September in Geneva.
Two international and two local members make up the government-appointed commission. Those are former Japan representative to the UN, Kenzo Oshima, and former deputy foreign minister of the Philippines, Rosario Manalo, who will lead the investigation.
The two locals are Mya Thein, a former chair of Burma’s Constitutional Tribunal, and Aung Tun Thet, a former senior official at UNICEF.
Robertson accused Manola of being more interested in playing politics than protecting rights, especially throughout her work on the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
Aung Tun Thet has repeatedly denied that any ethnic cleansing has taken place in Rakhine and was part of a 2016 investigation that went against UN findings on the issue.
Other rights groups have also expressed concern at the impartiality of the group.
Khin Ohmar, chairperson of Burma-based human rights advocacy organisation Progressive Voice, told the Dhaka Tribune, “No one knows how they got selected to be on the commission and what their mandate is.”
“The process is discreet and lacks transparency, so we have no confidence in that,” he said. “It’s neither independent nor impartial.”