Inn Din massacre

Inn Din massacre
Location Inn Din, Rakhine State, Myanmar
Coordinates 20°30′46″N 92°34′48″E / 20.51278°N 92.58000°E / 20.51278; 92.58000Coordinates: 20°30′46″N 92°34′48″E / 20.51278°N 92.58000°E / 20.51278; 92.58000
Date 2 September 2017 (UTC+6:30)
Target Rohingya Muslims accused of being members of ARSA
Attack type
Massacre
Weapons Machine guns, machetes
Deaths 10[1]
Perpetrators 33rd Light Infantry Division of the Myanmar Army and local paramilitaries (8th Security Police Battalion)[1]
Accused 16[2]
Convicted 7[3]
Verdict 10 years in prison with hard labour[3]
Charges Murder[3]

The Inn Din massacre was a mass execution of Rohingyas by the Myanmar Army and armed Rakhine locals in the village of Inn Din, in Rakhine State, Myanmar on 2 September 2017.[1][4][5][6] The victims were accused of being members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) by authorities. This was the first instance where Myanmar's security forces admitted to extrajudicial killings during their "clearance operations" in the region.

Background[]

The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority that mainly live in the northern region of Rakhine State, Myanmar, and have been described as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.[7][8][9] In modern times, the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar dates back to the 1970s.[10] Since then, Rohingya people have regularly been made the target of persecution by the government and nationalist Buddhists. The tension between various religious groups in the country had often been exploited by the past military governments of Myanmar.[7] According to Amnesty International, the Rohingya have suffered from human rights violations under past military dictatorships since 1978, and many have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result.[11] In 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had assisted with the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh, but allegations of human rights abuses in the refugee camps threatened this effort.[12] In 2015, 140,000 Rohingyas remained in IDP camps after communal riots in 2012.[13]

On 9 October 2016, insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched their first large-scale attack on Burmese border posts on the Bangladesh–Myanmar border,[14] with a second large-scale attack on 25 August 2017, leading to new "clearance operations" by the Myanmar government, which critics argue targeted civilians.[15]

Prelude[]

After ARSA's attacks on 25 August 2017, a troop of around 80 Burmese soldiers arrived in Inn Din on 27 August to recruit local Rakhine Buddhist villagers for "local security". Members of the Tatmadaw (armed forces), the Border Guard Police (BGP) and the local Rakhine community began torching Rohingya homes, whilst keeping Rakhine homes intact. The destruction in Inn Din was confirmed by satellite evidence obtained before and after 28 August. Several hundred Rohingya villagers fled from the west hamlet of Inn Din to the mountains in the east, many with the intent to escape to refugee camps in Bangladesh.[1]

Massacre[]

On 1 September, many of the villagers who were hiding in the mountains began descending to the beaches of Inn Din in search of food. Armed soldiers and paramilitary members arrived and detained ten men at the beach, whom they accused of being members of ARSA. According to local Rakhine eyewitnesses, the men were moved to the village school at around 5:00 PM, photographed, given a change of clothes, and fed what was to be their last meal. The next morning, on 2 September, the men were photographed again by the military, kneeling on the ground. They were then marched up a hill and shot in the head by soldiers. Soe Chay, a retired soldier and local who supposedly helped dig the mass grave, told Reuters that each victim was shot two to three times. According to Chay, some of the victims managed to survive and made noises whilst being buried alive, prompting a group of local paramilitaries to hack them to death with machetes.[1]

Military investigation[]

Through a Facebook post by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Tatmadaw (armed forces) announced they would investigate reports of a mass grave in the village of Inn Din.[16] On 10 January 2018, the military released their findings in the investigation through a second Facebook post by Min Aung Hlaing. The post stated that there was indeed a mass grave in Inn Din containing bodies of Rohingyas, but that no massacre took place and that those in the grave were "Bengali terrorists" that soldiers had detained in the village cemetery. According to the post, the Rohingyas in the grave were executed by security forces on 2 September 2017, after they were determined to be "Bengali terrorists".[17] This was the first time the military accepted responsibility for killings perpetrated during their "clearance operations" in the region.[18]

A statement on behalf of the military was posted by Min Aung Hlaing to his Facebook page on 10 April 2018, announcing that seven soldiers had been convicted of murder for their participation in the executions. They were sentenced to "10 years in prison with hard labour in a remote area."[3]

Arrest of Reuters journalists[]

Myanmar police officers stand on guard outside a courtroom in Insein Township during Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's trial.

On 12 December 2017, members of Myanmar's police force arrested Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo at a restaurant in Yangon after inviting them to dinner. The two journalists were independently investigating the mass grave found in Inn Din prior to their arrest.[19]

According to the journalists, they were immediately arrested after being presented documents by policemen they had never met before. The police made no reference to the restaurant meeting in their press releases, stating that the journalists were arrested outside on the outskirts of Yangon.[20] The pair was charged with possessing classified documents in violation of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a possible sentence of 14 years in prison.[21] Reuters called for their immediate release, insisting that they were arrested for their investigation. After the court's final hearing of their case on 8 February 2018, Reuters released all the findings in their journalists' investigation.[22][23]

Myanmar police captain Moe Yan Naing, who was arrested for violating Myanmar's Police Disciplinary Act on the same day the journalists were arrested,[24] testified while called as a witness of the prosecution on 20 April 2018 that he and his colleagues were ordered by their superiors to entrap the journalists by providing them "secret documents" at the restaurant they had agreed to meet two policemen at.[25] He also said that he and other officers were threatened with imprisonment by their superiors if they did not carry out the arrests. A police spokesman later commented that Naing "spoke based on his own feelings" and that his testimony "cannot be assumed as true".[26] Naing's family was evicted from police-accommodated housing on 21 April 2018[27] and Naing was sentenced to a year in prison on 29 April 2018 for violating the Police Disciplinary Act.[28][29][30]

On 2 May 2018, a judge deemed Naing's testimony reliable and rejected a request from the prosecution to classify him as a hostile witness.[31][32][33] Naing was allowed to provide further information a week later on 9 May 2018,[34] testifying in court that police brigadier general Tin Ko Ko orchestrated the plan to entrap Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and that he threatened Naing and his colleagues with arrest if they did not "get Wa Lone". In his testimony, Naing told the judge overseeing the proceedings, "I know that police brigadier general Tin Ko Ko instructed police lance corporal Naing Lin to give Wa Lone documents related to our frontline activities in order to have him arrested." A police spokesman later commented that brigadier general Tin Ko Ko had "no reason to do such a thing",[35] and lance corporal Naing Lin later denied that such orders were given to him.[36]

A court charged the two journalists with obtaining secret state documents in violation of the Official Secrets Act on 9 July 2018, taking the case to trial after a period of preliminary hearings that lasted six months.[37][38][39] The pair pleaded not guilty to the charges and vowed to testify and prove their innocence.[40] On 3 September 2018, the two journalists were found guilty by a court and sentenced to seven years in prison,[41][42][43][44] prompting condemnation from several members of the international community, including the U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, who called the decision "deeply troubling", and the British ambassador, who said that the United Kingdom and the European Union were "extremely disappointed" by the verdict and that the judge in the case "ignored evidence and Myanmar law."[45][46] The State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, defended the court's ruling, saying, "If we believe in the rule of law, they have every right to appeal the judgment and to point out why the judgment was wrong, if they consider it wrong."[47][48]

Government responses[]

Prior to Reuters' publication, Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay responded to the alleged abuses at Inn Din by saying that the government would investigate them if there was "strong and reliable primary evidence".[49] After the publication was released, Zaw Htay announced that the government would take "action according to the law" against the perpetrators of the massacre, but noted that it was not a response to the publication.[50] Burmese authorities later investigated the Rakhine village administrator who spoke with Reuters.[51] The office of the President of Myanmar announced on 13 February 2018 that 16 suspects had been detained in connection to the massacre. Among them were four military officers, three Tatmadaw soldiers, three policemen, and six villagers. Seven of the suspects were later found guilty of murder.[2]

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spoke to the U.N. Security Council on 13 February 2018, calling the Myanmar government's denial of the massacre "preposterous" and the restrictions on travel in Rakhine State a deliberate act to "prevent access to an organisation that might bear witness to their [security forces'] atrocities". Haley also called for the release of the two Reuters journalists who were allegedly imprisoned for their coverage of the massacre.[52] After charges were brought against the two Reuters journalists, the American embassy in Yangon expressed its disappointment and urged authorities to "allow the journalists to return to their jobs and families", and calling the decision "a setback for press freedom and the rule of law in Myanmar".[53]

See also[]

References[]

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