YANGON: Myanmar said its military was conducting a rare court martial following a probe into alleged mass graves in crisis-hit Rakhine state, two years after a bloody crackdown drove some 740,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.

In February 2018, an Associated Press report spoke of at least five mass graves of Rohingya in Rakhine’s Gu Dar Pyin village — a claim denied by the government, which said the bodies were those of “terrorists”.

But the military’s official website said on Saturday that an investigation had found “weakness in following instructions” in Gu Dar Pyin, and that a court martial would “proceed in accordance with the procedures of Military Justice”.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun confirmed the probe on Sunday, and said the report of mass graves “is just an allegation”. But “detailed information cannot be released yet”, he said.

The report described grisly violence at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes, who allegedly attacked villagers with guns, knives, rocket launchers and grenades before dumping bodies into pits and dousing them with acid. Estimates from survivors in Bangladesh put the death toll in the hundreds, the report said. Security forces claimed they were under attack by some 500 villagers, and that they had acted “in self-defence”.

UN investigators want Myanmar generals prosecuted for genocide for overseeing the brutal crackdown in Rakhine state. The army denies the allegation, calling the 2017 operation a proportionate response to militant attacks on police posts.

Rights groups say the military has done little to hold anyone accountable for atrocities. It previously admitted that members of the security forces had helped kill 10 Rohingya in a different Rakhine village in September 2017.

Four officers and three soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labour, but a prison official said in May that they were “no longer in detention”.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2019

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