Two news outlets say two Myanmar soldiers have recounted gruesome details of the 2017 military campaign against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state that the United Nations has categorized as genocide.
The New York Times and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report the soldiers, identified as Pvt. Myo Win Tun and Pvt. Zaw Naing Tun, deserted the Myanmar army, known as the Tatmadaw, last month and spoke on camera in separate interviews about the crimes they witnessed and participated in.
The soldiers said they carried out orders to shoot and kill every Rohingya Muslim they saw, and admitted to being present as their fellow soldiers raped young girls and women, and took part in burning down entire villages.
The campaign, launched in response to a series of attacks carried out by Rohingya militants on security outposts across Rakhine state, triggered one of the largest refugee crises in recent history. More than 700,000 Rohingya villagers fled across the border into neighboring Bangladesh, where many of them remain in cramped, squalid refugee camps.
The recorded accounts, the first ever offered by Myanmar soldiers, match descriptions provided by dozens of witnesses to U.N. human rights investigators.
The CBC said the descriptions were video recorded by the Arakan Army, an insurgent group fighting the Tatmadaw. Fortify Rights, a Thai-based human rights watchdog, obtained the videos and translated and analyzed the remarks.
Both the Times and the CBC say the soldiers are now in custody at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights, called the development “a monumental moment” for the Rohingyas, who are considered refugees from Bangladesh and have not been granted citizenship in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations.