Seven Myanmar soldiers have been sentenced to “10 years in prison with hard labour in a remote area” for participating in a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in a village in north-western Rakhine state last September, the army said.
- Two journalists who investigated the massacre are currently behind bars and facing charges.
- The massacre was part of a larger crackdown on the Rohingya.
- Facebook is hiring more Burmese-language speakers to remove hate speech.
The military said in a statement published on Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s office Facebook page that seven soldiers have had “action taken against them” for “contributing and participating in murder”.
The massacre was being investigated by two Reuters journalists — Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28 — who were subsequently arrested in December and are still behind bars facing charges of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act.
The authorities said in February the military opened an internal investigation independently, separate to the case of the Reuters reporters, who are accused of obtaining unrelated secret government papers.
The Rohingya men from the northern Rakhine village of Inn Din were buried in a mass grave in early September after being hacked to death or shot by Buddhist neighbours and soldiers.
The murders were part of a larger army crackdown on the Rohingya.
The military operation, unleashed in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security forces in late August, has been beset by allegations of murder, rape, arson and looting.
The United Nations and the United States described it as ethnic cleansing — an accusation which Myanmar denies.
“Four officers were denounced and permanently dismissed from the military and sentenced to 10 years with hard labour at a prison in a remote area,” read the military statement.
“Three soldiers of other rank were demoted to the rank of ‘private’, permanently dismissed from the military and sentenced to 10 years with hard labour at a prison in a remote area.”
It added that legal proceedings against the police personnel and civilians “involved in the crime” are still under way.
On January 10 the military said the 10 Rohingya men belonged to a group of 200 militants who had attacked security forces.
Buddhist villagers attacked some of them with swords and soldiers shot the others dead, the military had said.
But that version of events was contradicted by accounts given by Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim witnesses.
Buddhist villagers reported no attack by a large number of insurgents on security forces in Inn Din.
And Rohingya witnesses said soldiers plucked the 10 from among hundreds of men, women and children who had sought safety on a nearby beach.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg vows to work harder to block hate speech in Myanmar
United Nations officials investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar said last month that Facebook had been a source of anti-Rohingya propaganda.
This morning Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told US senators his company would step up efforts to block hate messages in Myanmar.
He was speaking as he faced questioning by the US Congress about electoral interference and hate speech on the platform.
Facebook has been accused by human rights advocates of not doing enough to weed out hate messages on its social-media network in Myanmar, where it is a dominant communications system.
“What’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more,” Mr Zuckerberg said during a five-hour joint hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.
Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said in March that social media had played a “determining role” in Myanmar.
“It has … substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict … within the public. Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media,” he said.
Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook was hiring dozens more Burmese-language speakers to remove threatening content.
“It’s hard to do it without people who speak the local language, and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically,” he said, adding that Facebook was also asking civil society groups to help it identify figures who should be banned from the network.
He said a Facebook team would also make undisclosed product changes in Myanmar and other countries where ethnic violence was a problem.
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Rohingya refugees at Thaingkhali makeshift refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Reuters: Danish Siddiqui)