Thursday 26 April 2018

Five new mass graves discovered in Burma

The findings suggest the military’s slaughter of civilians and the presence of many more burial sites.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

By Foster Klug

At least five previously unreported mass graves have been uncovered in Burma, in the newest piece of evidence for what looks increasingly like genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.

The Associated Press confirmed the existence of the graves around the village of Gu Dar Pyin, through interviews with more than two dozen survivors in Bangladesh refugee camps and time-stamped mobile phone videos.

The government regularly claims massacres like Gu Dar Pyin never happened, and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 “terrorists” in the village of Inn Din.

The AP findings suggest not only the military’s slaughter of civilians but the presence of many more graves with many more people.

The Rohingya are a long-persecuted ethnic Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Htun Naing, a local security police officer in Buthidaung township, where the village is located, said he “hasn’t heard of such mass graves”.

Burma has cut off access to Gu Dar Pyin, so it is unclear how many people died, but satellite images obtained by AP from DigitalGlobe show a devastated village.

Community leaders have compiled a list of 75 dead so far, and villagers estimate the toll could be as high as 400, based on evidence from relatives and the bodies they have seen in the graves and strewn about the area.

Almost every villager interviewed by AP saw three large mass graves at Gu Dar Pyin’s northern entrance, near the main road, where witnesses say soldiers herded and killed most of the Rohingya.

A handful of witnesses confirmed two other big graves near a hillside cemetery, and smaller graves scattered around the village.

In the videos obtained by AP, dating to 13 days after the killing began, blue-green puddles of acid sludge surround corpses without heads and torsos that jut out from the earth, skeletal hands seeming to claw at the ground.

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Police guard the entrance of the residence of Aung San Suu Kyi (AP/Min Kyi Thein)

Survivors said soldiers planned the August 27 attack, and tried to hide what they had done.

They came to the slaughter armed not only with rifles, knives, rocket launchers and grenades, but also with shovels to dig pits and acid to burn away faces and hands so bodies could not be recognised.

Buddhist villagers then moved through Gu Dar Pyin in a sort of mopping-up operation, using knives to cut the throats of the injured, survivors said, and pitching the young and the elderly into fires.

The UN special envoy on human rights in Burma said the military’s violent operations against Rohingya Muslims bear “the hallmarks of a genocide”.

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Yanghee Lee speaks during a press conference in Seoul (AP/Bang Sung-hae)

Yanghee Lee told reporters in Seoul that she could not make a definitive declaration about genocide until a credible international tribunal or court had weighed the evidence, but “we are seeing signs and it is building up to that”.

Ms Lee said she did not have specific details on Gu Dar Pyin, but added: “You can see it’s a pattern.”

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled their villages into Bangladesh since August.

Elsewhere a Burmese government spokesman said a petrol bomb had been thrown into the residential compound of the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but she was not at home and damage was minor.

Spokesman Zaw Htay said Ms Suu Kyi was in the capital Naypyitaw when the incident took place on Thursday morning.

Ms Suu Kyi is hugely popular among Burma’s majority Buddhists, but has been heavily criticised abroad for failing to stake a stand against army abuses against the Rohingya.

Press Association

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