Two soldiers reportedly admitted to killing dozens of villagers in northern Rakhine state
A human right group said two soldiers who deserted Myanmar's army have testified on video that they were ordered to kill and rape Rohingya villagers.
The comments appear to be the first public confession by soldiers of involvement in army-directed massacres, rape and other crimes against the mostly Muslim Rohingya in the Buddhist-majority country, and the group Fortify Rights suggested they could provide important evidence for an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Myanmar's government has denied accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.
Fortify Rights, which focuses on Myanmar, said the two army privates fled the country last month and are believed to be in the custody of the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, which is examining the violence against the Rohingya.
According to Fortify Rights, privates Myo Win Tun, 33, and Zaw Naing Tun, 30, who served in separate light infantry battalions, gave "the names and ranks of 19 direct perpetrators from the Myanmar army, including themselves, as well as six senior commanders ... they claim ordered or contributed to atrocity crimes against Rohingya".
Myo Win Tun said the commander of the 15th Military Operations Center gave an order to "shoot all you see and all you hear" when raiding Muslim villages. He said in one operation they killed and buried 30 people: "eight women, seven children and 15 men and elderly".
UN agencies and human rights organisations have extensively documented atrocities carried out against the Rohingya by Myanmar security forces. The International Court of Justice agreed last year to consider a case alleging that Myanmar committed genocide against the group. The court's proceedings are likely to continue for years.
Myanmar has repeatedly denied allegations of genocide, saying its military operations in 2017 were targeting Rohingya rebels who attacked police border posts.
Antonia Mulvey, executive director of Legal Action Worldwide, said if the evidence turns out to be credible, it would be a huge push for the investigation.
Myanmar is also facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice, also in The Hague, though that body does not bring cases against individuals or hear witnesses.
The country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared at the court last year to defend Myanmar in the case, which was brought by the Gambia and now has the backing of Canada and the Netherlands.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk