The Myanmar army has now accused the world media of “exaggerating” the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing its brutal crackdown for the last one and a half months.
The army commander-in-chief yesterday also denied accusations of ethnic cleansing by his force in the name of security operation since August 25 that forced more than 500,000 to flee to Bangladesh and many are still trying to escape the violence in Myanmar.
In a Facebook post on his official page, General Min Aung Hlaing, also the army chief, came up with the accusation against the media. He refuted the allegation of ethnic cleansing a day after the UN accused Myanmar of trying to purge its entire Rohingya population.
A new report released Wednesday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) described the crackdown as well-organised, coordinated and systematic, with the intent of driving the population out of Myanmar and also preventing them from returning to their homes.
Such counter-accusation and denial by the Myanmar army generals are nothing new. It has been their old strategy to refute allegations and to tell the world lies in efforts to cover up atrocities.
Earlier, after a UN report detailed devastating cruelty against Rohingyas indicating commission of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, the Myanmar army had found no wrongdoing in its operation against the ethnic minority people last year.
The Myanmar army had launched a brutal crackdown on the Rohingyas in October last year. The OHCHR's report released in February this year said the crackdown had led to gang rape, killing of hundreds of civilians and some 70,000 people flee Rakhine to Bangladesh.
“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable -- what kind of hatred could make a man to stab a baby crying out for his mother's milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces,” said the report.
The UN formed a fact-finding commission in March this year to investigate the rights abuses. But the commission was denied entry to Myanmar.
Myanmar generals didn't think the brutal atrocities against the Rohingya as reckless. But in their views, the findings of the UN report were “reckless”. In a press conference in March, they strongly defended the crackdown, terming it a lawful counterinsurgency operation.
“I want to say that I am very sad because of these kind of reckless accusations and neglect of the good things the government and the military have done for them," said chief of general staff of the army, General Mya Tun Oo.
To cover up the atrocities, the army formed an investigation commission that came up with a report in May. The commission, led by a general of the office of the commander- in-chief, revealed no wrongdoing.
It, however, reported finding two incidents of rights abuse. One was the theft of a motorbike, for which a soldier was sentenced to one year in jail and fined.
The other incident involved military personnel who beat villagers for allegedly not helping extinguish a fire, for which an officer was “penalised and warned” and two soldiers were sentenced to one year in jail each.
The army investigation team concluded that the allegations against the army in a report by the OHCHR were either “totally wrong” or “found to be untrue due to false accusations and exaggerations.”
This time, their atrocities against Rohingyas have been exposed by the media before the world. The global outcry has been louder mounting pressure on the Myanmar government and the military. Against this backdrop, the Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing yesterday blasted the media.
But blasting the media and denying responsibility for the atrocities will not change the facts. His army's atrocities against the Rohingyas have been termed by the UN “a text book case of ethnic cleansing”.
Myanmar army's human rights record is among the worst in the world: the use of rape as a weapon of war has been documented at length, The Diplomat, a current affairs magazine, said in an article on May 11.
Yet, the Myanmar generals may not change their strategy for telling lies. They seem to believe in the principle of Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels that a lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth. So, they may continue telling the world lies to cover up the atrocities of their army.