HUNDREDS of Rohingya villagers have been massacred and buried in newly discovered mass graves in Burma’s Rakhine State, according to an investigation from the Associated Press (AP) news agency.
Estimates suggest around 400 members of the persecuted minority were killed by Burmese troops and buried in the five previously unreported mass graves in the village of Gu Dar Pyin.
The report was gathered from witness testimony of survivors, as well as time-stamped mobile phone footage of the aftermath of the attack.
The report describes corpses in puddles of acid and video obtained by AP indicates the substance was used to burn the faces of the bodies so they could not be identified. The remains were buried in the shallow graves discovered by the agency. Heavy rains in the region caused the bodies to rise to the surface, where survivors were able to film the evidence.
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) February 1, 2018
The story of one survivor, told to AP, tells of a group of men starting a local game similar to football before Burmese soldiers opened fire. He later found six of his friends buried in two separate mass graves. He was only able to identify them from the colour of their shorts.
On the Thursday release of AP’s investigation, the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called the report “extremely troubling,” and urged Burma to allow the UN access to Rakhine State. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, has been banned from the country following claims from the government that she has been “unfair and biased.”
Lee was forced to give her end of mission statement from South Korean capital, Seoul, on Thursday.
“What the Myanmar government claims to be the conduct of military or security operations is actually an established pattern of domination, aggression and violations against ethnic groups,” she said.
While not familiar with the sites listed in the AP report, Lee said of mass graves in the country: “We can see that it’s a pattern…When I was talking to some of the refugees, a man said to me he had buried 430 plus bodies before he escaped his town.
“I received scrolls of names of people who were allegedly killed or missing. This is something that needs to be investigated, and this is why we’ve called for a fact-finding mission.”
The Burmese government regularly claims massacres like Gu Dar Pyin never happened, and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 “terrorists.” At the time of the discovery, Amnesty International called it the “tip of the iceberg,” saying more investigation was needed into “the ethnic cleansing campaign” that was being carried out against the Rohingya.
We are deeply troubled by reports of mass graves in #Rakhine State in #Burma & are watching very closely. We stand firmly by Sec. Tillerson’s statement that activities in that region constitute ethnic cleansing & we remain committed to ensure accountability for such atrocities.
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) February 1, 2018
Following the AP report, the US State Department said Thursday it was “deeply, deeply troubled” by the new reports of mass graves. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters the US was focused on helping to ensure accountability for those responsible.
Over 680,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled Burma since the latest wave of clashes began on Aug 25. The military has been accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide by rights groups.