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Myanmar military court to probe violence against Rohingya

The file photo, taken on July 13, 2017, shows border police in Ngayantchaung village, Myanmar's Rakhine state. (By AFP)

A military court in Myanmar will investigate the army's conduct during a crackdown on the persecuted Rohingya Muslims that forced thousands to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in August 2017.

The army said in a statement on Monday that the court, comprising a major general and two colonels, will investigate the events in Rakhine state.

"The information is released that the investigation court was formed ... to further scrutinize and confirm the respective incidents," said the statement, which was posted on the website of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the army's commander-in-chief.

The court will respond to allegations made by the United Nations and human rights groups accusing security forces of mass killings, rape and arson.

Last year, a UN fact-finding mission said the campaign against the Rohingya was orchestrated with "genocidal intent." It urged charging the army chief and five other generals with the "gravest crimes under international law."

A previous military investigation in 2017 had exonerated the security forces of any crimes.

Nicholas Bequelin, Southeast Asia and Pacific Director of Amnesty International, said the new court is "another bad faith maneuver" to fend off international pressure.

"The military stands accused of the gravest crimes under international law and has shown no sign of reform," he said.

Myanmar is facing growing international calls for accountability over the Rakhine massacre.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary examination into the violence. A commission of inquiry formed by Myanmar and including some current and former diplomats to the UN is due to publish its findings later this year.

About 740,000 Rohingya Muslims are living in camps in Bangladesh after they were driven out of Rakhine during the deadly campaign in 2017, which the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing.

Rakhine has been the scene of communal violence since 2012. Many Muslims have been killed while tens of thousands have been forced to flee as a result of attacks by Buddhists. The refugees largely live in camps in dire conditions.

The Rohingya have inhabited Rakhine for centuries, but most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar see them as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh, with the state denying the Muslims citizenship.

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