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Future Unclear for Myanmar Army Deserters in Netherlands

FILE - Myanmar soldiers arrive after Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army's (ARSA) attacks, at Buthidaung, Myanmar, Aug. 29, 2017.
FILE - Myanmar soldiers arrive after Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army's (ARSA) attacks, at Buthidaung, Myanmar, Aug. 29, 2017.

Details are emerging about how two privates in the Myanmar army who confessed on video to committing atrocity crimes ended up in the Netherlands.

According to Mark Farmaner of Burma Campaign UK, Private Myo Win Tun and Private Zaw Naing Tun deserted and ended up with the Arakan Army, one of many ethnic armies operating in the country.

There, they were interviewed and confessed. Farmaner said those taped confessions had to initially be considered questionable, given the possibility they were made under duress.

The two arrived in Bangladesh in mid-August seeking protection. They were again questioned about the alleged crimes.

According to Farmaner, their stories came to the attention of the International Criminal Court, headquartered in The Hague. The two were then handed over to the Dutch government and taken to the Netherlands.

Farmaner said the two were under the “care” of the Dutch government and were not in ICC custody.

Whether the soldiers will be charged or serve as witnesses is unclear. Court officials have not commented publicly on the two soldiers.

The men say they participated in mass murder and the destruction of entire villages under the orders of senior officers.

The statements from the two soldiers add weight to accounts that have been given by numerous victims and investigators since August 2017. That’s when the country’s military launched a brutal crackdown in response to attacks on Myanmar security outposts by Rohingya militants.

United Nations investigators reported that at least 10,000 Rohingya were likely killed and about 200 settlements were destroyed. The campaign drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighboring Bangladesh, by U.N. count. They now live in squalid refugee camps and depend on humanitarian aid to survive.

Myanmar’s government has continuously dismissed the accusations. Testifying at the International Court of Justice last December, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s highest civilian leader, denied that there was a state-sponsored campaign to destroy the Rohingya.

Responding to the videos, Myanmar military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun called the Arakan Army, the insurgent group that recorded the videos, a terrorist organization and said the former soldiers may have been coerced into giving their statements.

The military says a small number of rogue soldiers have committed crimes.