Days after the United Nations investigators called for the prosecution of Myanmar military leaders on account of carrying out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state, the Reuters reported the country is trying to rewrite its history of human rights violations against the ethnic minority by propagating lies about them.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring Bangladesh after Burmese army launched state-sanctioned genocide on Rohingya villages in August 2017, subjecting the civilians to brutal violence, rape, arson, shootings, assaults and torture. Their houses were burned down and their settlements were razed to the ground.
Much of the state’s willingness to commit violence against the minority community came from its claim that the Rohingya are actually illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, a claim enshrined in the 1982 Citizenship Law which does not extend nationality to the Rohingya despite their deep roots in the country.
Earlier this year, the Myanmar army’s department of public relations and psychological warfare published a book to downplay the human rights crisis.
“It can be found that whenever a political change or an ethnic armed conflict occurred in Myanmar those Bengalis take it as an opportunity,” the writer, Lt. Col. Kyaw Kyaw Oo, wrote in the book. He went on to claim the Muslim community was to blame for the “religious clashes” in the country.
The 117-page book, titled “Myanmar Politics and the Tatmadaw: Part I,” also featured “documentary photos” with the purpose of “revealing the history of Bengalis.”
Interestingly, Reuters confirmed at least three supposedly historic photos included in the propaganda book were either completely fake, digitally manipulated or both.
According to the book, the photo showed how “Bengalis intruded into the country after the British Colonialism occupied the lower part of Myanmar.”
However, according to Reuters, the black-and-white photo was actually the colorless version of an image captured by Martha Rial for the Pulitzer Prize website winning website, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Contrary to what the book stated, the photo actually showed Hutu refugees fleeing Rwanda following the violence in 1996.
Another black-and-white picture showed men aboard a boat with the caption: “Bengalis entered Myanmar via the watercourse.”
In reality, the photo was taken from Getty Images and showed Rohingya leaving Myanmar for Bangladesh and Thailand instead of entering it. The original image was captured in 2015, but the Burmese army flipped it, blurred and removed its color to give it a historic look.
It is important to mention the photo was sourced from Myanmar’s Ministry of Information, which goes to show how far the country would go to hide its crimes against an entire community.
The photo purports to show Rohingya Muslims murdering Buddhists in Myanmar.
“Bengalis killed local ethnics brutally,” read the caption, referring to Rohingya as Bengalis.
However, Reuters found the photo was actually taken during the 1971 independence war between Bangladesh and Pakistan, where hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis lost their lives at the hand of Pakistani troops.
“Myanmar Politics and the Tatmadaw: Part I” is available in bookstores across Yangon, but has not been able to draw much public attention.
Thumbnail / Banner : REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain