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18 Sep 2018 12:34
Myanmar military commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, attends a military exercise at Ayeyarwaddy delta region in Myanmar, February 3 2018. (Lynn Bo Bo/Reuters)
A UN probe is calling for six members of Myanmar’s military — including its commander-in-chief — to be investigated for ‘genocide’ against the Rohingya.
A violent army crackdown last year forced more than 700 000 of the Muslim minority over the border into Bangladesh.
Here is what we know about those the UN team has singled out as most responsible for the crimes.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is the most powerful man in Myanmar.
As well as controlling all branches of Myanmar’s military, he wields significant political might with three ministries — defence, interior and border affairs — reporting to him.
Military men also fill a quarter of parliamentary seats, giving the armed forces chief an effective veto over any constitutional changes.
Min Aung Hlaing, 62, was born in Dawei in southern Myanmar but grew up in Yangon.
He ditched his law studies after one year to embrace a military career, rising to the top in 2011 as Myanmar emerged from absolute junta rule.
During the crackdown against the Rohingya, UN investigators say he was “well-informed of real-time developments” with “a full picture of what was transpiring, both on his orders and on his watch”.
Facebook removed his two official accounts last month, alongside 19 other individuals and organisations, to prevent them from using the website to “further inflame ethnic and religious tensions”.
Before Min Aung Hlaing’s pages were taken down, they boasted a combined total of about 4.1 million followers.
The army chief promptly switched to Russian social media platform VKontakte, but this week his account there was also taken offline.
A shadowy figure, Vice Commander-in-Chief Soe Win joined the military in 1980 and is known for his hardline stance and reluctance to speak publicly.
As the military number two, Soe Win was “heavily involved” with managing combat deployments in Rakhine, according to Amnesty International.
Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw is the highest-ranking Myanmar military officer to be targeted by both US and EU sanctions.
He commanded the Bureau of Special Operations from 2015 to January 2018, making him fourth in the chain of command in the Rakhine operations last year, according to NGO Fortify Rights.
The group also says he was “embedded…on the ground”, increasing the likelihood that troops were acting under his direct orders.
He was fired from the army in May this year for “weakness in serving duty”, according to an army Facebook post, a move seen by many as an attempt to use him as a scapegoat.
The same fate awaited Major General Maung Maung Soe, formerly the chief of the military’s Western Command, which includes Rakhine.
He was reassigned in November to “inspect his responsibility over his weakness while working for Rakhine state stability”, the military said, later declaring that he had been “purged” for poor performance.
The US hit him with sanctions in December.
The notorious 33rd Light Infantry Division (LID) is known to have played a leading role in committing atrocities against the Rohingya.
Brigadier General Aung Aung is the commander and would have given orders for troops to target specific villages, Amnesty says.
Its troops are implicated in the massacres in both Chut Pyin in Rathedaung township and Inn Din, where 10 Rohingya men were murdered in extrajudicial killings uncovered by two local Reuters reporters, who have since been sentenced to seven years in jail.
The US has sanctioned the 33rd LID.
The soldiers of the 99th Light Infantry Division, under the command of Brigadier General Than Oo, are implicated in the Tula Toli massacre in Rakhine’s Maungdaw township.
His soldiers rounded up hundreds of Rohingya to a nearby river bank and opened fire on them, according to the US Treasury.
Women and girls were raped and the lives of young children were not spared.
In May, Than Oo was demoted to an auxiliary force.
© Agence France-Presse
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