Myanmar army tries to discredit Rohingya abuse confessions
Myanmar's military has sought to undermine the confessions of two soldiers who said they were ordered to "exterminate" Rohingya Muslims before taking part in the massacre of scores of men, women and children.
NGO Fortify Rights and the New York Times on Tuesday released details of the filmed interviews of Private Myo Win Tun, 33, and Private Zaw Naing Tun, 30, in which they described "wiping out" entire villages.
The soldiers allege they were ordered by senior commanders to "shoot all that you see and hear" during the military operations in 2017 that forced some 750,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
Widespread atrocities have been documented by UN investigators and rights groups in violence that now sees Myanmar facing charges of genocide, but this is the most detailed account so far given by alleged perpetrators.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun admitted to BBC Burmese late on Wednesday that the men were former soldiers, but claimed they had been "taken hostage" by the Arakan Army (AA) militant group and "threatened and coerced into confessing".
The AA is fighting the military in the country's northwest for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
Both sides frequently trade accusations of human rights abuses in a civil war raging in the same area where the military operations against the Rohingya took place three years ago.
The AA dismissed the military's claims, telling AFP on Thursday the two soldiers had deserted.
"They voluntarily confessed about the war crimes committed by Myanmar's military," AA spokesman Khine Thu Kha said, adding other defectors had given similar testimonies, which they have posted online in recent months.
AFP is unable to independently verify the video or statements, but Fortify Rights said it published its analysis of the confessions only after being certain they were not made under duress.
The NGO said the men appeared at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border asking for protection, and have since been taken to The Hague, where the International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating atrocities against the Rohingya.
The ICC said that the men are not in its custody, while the prosecutor's office said it was unable to comment to "ensure the safety and security" of victims and witnesses. (AFP)