The military said in a statement on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into “possible wider patterns of violations in the region of northern Rakhine in 2016-2017.”
“Allegations regarding villages in the Maungdaw area are included in the scope of this wider investigation,” it said, referring to a district on the border with Bangladesh
It said the military-run Office of the Judge Advocate General had reviewed a report by a government-backed commission that implicated soldiers in committing war crimes and had expanded the scope of its investigations in response.
No further details were provided about the investigations.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State to neighboring Bangladesh — joining more than 200,000 already there — amid a military-led crackdown in 2017 that the UN has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.”
Thousands were killed, and many others were raped, tortured, or arrested in the crackdown.
The Myanmarese military flatly rejected the accusations, for which countless eyewitness testimonies and satellite image evidence were available.
Last week, two Myanmarese soldiers confessed to the International Court of Justice (ICC) in The Hague that they had participated in executions, mass burials, village obliterations, and rape against the Muslim community in Rakhine.
The two soldiers confessed that they had been ordered by military command to “shoot all you see and all you hear” in Muslim villages in August 2017.
Private Myo Win Tun said in video testimony that he had taken part in the massacre of 30 Rohingya Muslims and burying them in a mass grave near a cell tower and a military base.
Private Zaw Naing Tun said that he and his comrades had been ordered by the superiors to “kill all you see, whether children or adults.”
“We wiped out about 20 villages,” he said, adding that they dumped bodies in a mass grave.
The two soldiers, who fled Myanmar last month, were transported to The Hague, where the ICC has opened a case examining whether the military leaders of Myanmar committed large-scale crimes against the Muslim community.
“These men could be the first perpetrators from Myanmar tried at the ICC, and the first insider witnesses in the custody of the court,” said Matthew Smith, the chief executive officer at a human rights watchdog Fortify Rights.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned on Monday that Myanmar’s ongoing violence against the Rohingya “may constitute further war crimes or even crimes against humanity.”
She said that satellite images and eyewitness accounts indicated that areas of northern Rakhine had been burnt in recent months.