Human Rights Watch says military sexually assaulted and shot Rohingya Muslims on August 27, in revenge for rebel attacks on an army base.
Myanmar's army "summarily executed" dozens of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State after the rebels targeted an army base, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, an incident that may have sparked the mass exodus of the minority community.
The international rights group in a special report said that the incident took place in Maung Nu village on August 27, two days after rebels of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) raided some police posts and an army base in the region bordering Bangladesh.
HRW said the Myanmar army raided a residential compound where villagers had converged for safety fearing an army backlash.
Quoting survivors of the massacre the report said, "Burmese soldiers had beaten, sexually assaulted, stabbed, and shot villagers who had gathered for safety in a residential compound."
Since then, the army operation has caused more than 500,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh while hundreds have died in Myanmar while fleeing for safety.
"All the horrors of the Burmese army's crimes against humanity and against the Rohingya are evident in the mass killings in Maung Nu village," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at the global human rights body.
"These atrocities demand more than words from concerned governments; they need concrete responses with consequences."
HRW said it has not been able to verify estimates of the number of villagers killed “but satellite imagery analysed shows the near-total destruction of the villages of Maung Nu."
"The damage signatures are consistent with fire," the report said.
After the massacre, HRW report said, "The soldiers loaded the bodies – some witnesses said a hundred or more – into military trucks and took them away."
Survivors' accounts of massacre
Over a dozen survivors told HRW investigators of chilling accounts of deaths and survivals as the Myanmar army rampaged through the village.
"One soldier, identified by many witnesses as Staff Sergeant Baju, led several soldiers into a courtyard and began calling to the people hiding in the house in the Rohingya language," the report quoted a witness as saying.
Once the men came out, they were made to kneel down, kicked repeatedly and struck with gun butts before they were killed, Abdul Jabar told HRW investigators.
Mohammad Ayas, who hid himself in the rafters of the house told the investigators that the villagers were slaughtered "just like they are clearing the jungle with their thin, sharp, and long knives."
Another witness Muhamedul Hassan who identified the Myanmar army officer as Staff Sergeant Baju told HRW that the soldiers took him and his two relatives to the corner of the courtyard and were shot at twice in the back.
"I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I saw many men still tied and the soldiers were still killing people," the report quoted him as saying.
"Many were stabbed to death. When I tried to flee I was shot in the chest but was able to escape."
The global rights body said it has not been able to verify estimates of the number of villagers killed.
Myanmar has not commented on the HRW report.
But it has denied carrying out what the UN says is "a textbook case of ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims.
UN asked to probe atrocities
HRW officials said that the "Burmese military commanders cannot use the excuse of militant attacks to avoid justice and punishment."
"The UN fact-finding mission needs to investigate these atrocities, including commanders who ordered the attack or failed to punish those involved," said Phil Robertson of HRW.
Known as the world's most persecuted minority, the UN has called for halting the army crackdown on Rohingya.
The current crisis has its roots in the violence eleven months ago in the northern Rakhine State – home to 1.1-million Rohingya Muslims – when armed attackers targeted police posts and snatched weapons, sparking a brutal military operation that continues till today.
Since August 25, according to the UN, a "wave of humanity" fleeing persecution in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar has reached Bangladesh.