The remains of the victims in question were found buried in a mass grave outside Inn Din, a village in Maungdaw, Rakhine State, in December.
Soldiers and villagers were involved in the killings of “Bengali terrorists” and legal action would be taken against them, according to a statement posted on Wednesday to the Facebook page of Min Aung Hlaing, the military’s commander-in-chief.
Myanmar refers to members of the persecuted Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority, as Bengalis. The country does not recognise the community as one of its ethnic groups.
As part of an ongoing campaign against the group, Myanmar also rejects many peaceful Rohingya citizens as “terrorists”.
The military’s unprecedented statement on Wednesday came after months of denial of any wrongdoing towards the Rohingya.
Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist, said he did not believe the army’s account of the incident.
Hlaing admitted killing “but the story is false”, he said on Twitter.
Myanmar’s government has repeatedly denied allegations of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and refused UN investigators’ and journalists’ access to areas of the country affected by violence.
Amnesty International, the UK-based rights group, said the military admitting wrongdoing over the incident was a positive development, but just “the tip of the iceberg”.
“It is only the tip of the iceberg and warrants serious independent investigation into what other atrocities were committed amid the ethnic cleansing campaign that has forced out more than 655,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State since last August,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“It is appalling that soldiers have attempted to justify extrajudicial executions by saying they were needed as reinforcements elsewhere and did not know what to do with the men. Such behaviour shows a contempt for human life which is simply beyond comprehension.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled what the UN and several countries have labelled ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State since clashes broke out between government security forces and Rohingya fighters on August 25 .
Fleeing Rohingya have reported many stories of mass killings, gang rape, and arson attacks by security forces.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA