BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar's military acknowledged Wednesday that its security forces and Buddhist villagers killed 10 Rohingya Muslims whose bodies were found in a mass grave in a village in troubled Rakhine state.
The public admission of wrongdoing is the military's first since it launched "clearance operations" against ethnic Rohingya in August, prompting more than 650,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh in what the United Nations has called "ethnic cleansing."
A statement on the military commander-in-chief's Facebook page said the Rohingya found in the mass grave had threatened Buddhist villagers and were killed in retaliation.
The U.N. and other groups accuse the military of widespread atrocities against Rohingya, including killings, rapes and the burning of homes. But the military has insisted that there has been no wrongdoing by any security forces.
The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar has refused to accept Rohingya Muslims as a minority group, even though they have lived in the country for generations. They are widely called "Bengalis" and are accused of migrating illegally from Bangladesh.
Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless.
The 10 bodies were found in December in a mass grave near a cemetery in Inn Din village.
"It is true that both the villagers and security forces admitted they killed the 10 Bengali terrorists," the military statement said. "The army will take charge of those who are responsible for the killings and who broke the rules of engagement. This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists."