It is now 13 months since the Myanmar military began its wilful and deliberate campaign of murder, rape and unbridled violence against the Rohingya people of Rakhine state. The men in the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military are known, aided and abetted roving gangs of thugs to set upon a peace-loving community, participated in horrific acts of barbarity and cruelty and actively engaged in criminal acts that amounted to a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.
Each of the 750,000 refugees who fled the Tatmadaw, taking to the seas or treading through fields of landmines deliberately laid in their escape paths, has a remarkable story of survival to tell. Sadly too, the 100,000 who perished in this orgy of bloodletting, need their stories to be told. All Rohingya need persons and institutions of moral fortitude to ensure that the Tatmadaw and anyone else who participated in these acts of genocide are held to account.
Earlier this week, United Nations investigators presented a detailed report — a book of evidence — gathered from a fact-finding mission that began six months before the genocide of August 2017, and for nine months since then. That alone adds a level of veracity to the findings.
The findings are fully damning of the Tatmadaw, removing any false claims of innocence that senior officers cling to as salve for their collective failure. Women were tied by their hands or hair to trees then raped; young children who tried to flee burning houses were forced back into the flames; bamboo sticks, hot wax and lit cigarettes used as instruments of torture; landmines on escape routes; machine gun attacks — all inflicted on children, mothers, brothers and fathers who were brutalised simply and solely for being Muslim.
This report now will form an essential part of the record when it comes to institutional criminal proceedings against those who participated in this genocide, those who issued the orders, those who executed the orders — and those who stood by and allowed these atrocities to occur.
This report too stands as a stark reminder that all too often, there stands a very fine line between honour and horror, bravery and brutality, compassion and complicity. That is a fine line that is crossed in so many places where community leaders and ranking officers stir up hatred of the basest level.
Sadly, that fine line is all too often erased by agitators and aggressors who feast on ignorance and fuel perceptions and half-truths.
The United Nations has a first-hand account from its own investigators that place the Tatmadaw at the scenes of crimes and as the perpetrator of atrocities. The International Criminal Court now has a book of evidence laid before it. How long must it take then for the Tatmadaw to be in the dock?