Today a group of Rohingya villagers made a formal complaint to the UK government that its loans supported the construction of telecommunication towers used by the Burma Army in their genocidal clearance operations in Arakan State in 2017.
The complaint, lodged by the Committee Seeking Justice for Alethankyaw (CSJA), accuses the UK government’s international investment arm, the CDC, of loaning funds to Irrawaddy Green Tower company (IGT) to build a telecommunication tower in the village of Alethankyaw, in southern Maungdaw, which was used by military snipers to shoot at fleeing Rohingya villagers in August 2017.
IGT’s ownership of the tower was revealed after CSJA filed a complaint in December 2019 over the same incident to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on violations of its investment guidelines by Norway’s state-owned Telenor company, which had leased the Alethankyaw tower.
In their letter to the UK government, the Rohingya CSJA stated that: “As the UK government has invested its citizens’ funds into IGT structures actively used by the Burma Army for genocide, the UK has a particular obligation to investigate fairly and without bias its connection to the atrocities in Alethankyaw so as to help ensure such crimes do not happen again”.
The misuse of the UK-funded tower in Alethankyaw was highlighted in a March 2019 report by UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee, which stated that “troops from Light Infantry Division 99 were deployed to the village of Alethankyaw in Maungdaw in the days prior to 25 August 2017. On 25 August, these troops killed at least fifty men, women and children. The following day, snipers were positioned on rooftops, a Myanmar Post and Telecommunications tower and a Telenor tower, and shot villagers as they fled. Bodies were reportedly disposed of by troops in wells and under the Telenor tower”.
The CSJA wrote in their complaint to the UK government that “Tower RA0224, which was commissioned by Telenor Myanmar, was the site of a war crime. This crime was made possible by both CDC’s financing of IGT’s telecom infrastructure and CDC failure to take seriously the risks associated with financing business in Rakhine State”.
According to CSJA, these risks were already well known, as similar military atrocities against the Rohingya were carried out in October 2016 and thus “IGT, the tower owner, also knew full well in 2016 that such atrocities did and could occur again at its tower sites and yet returned its staff to Alethankyaw in 2017, to continue operations, in complete disregard to the recent atrocities committed by the same security forces which were cooperating with its construction efforts”.
Currently during the ongoing mass uprisings against the February 1 coup in Burma, the military regime has been using snipers to shoot unarmed civilian protesters, often from high buildings or towers. Some snipers are from the same units deployed during the 2017 clearance operations in Arakan State.
To see full complaint letter: https://kaladanpress.org/index.php/news/438-news-2021/may-2021/5206-to-the-government-of-the-united-kingdom-complaint-concerning-use-of-uk-government-%E2%80%9Ccdc%E2%80%9D-investment-in-genocide-in-rakhine-state,-burma.html