Earlier this month, an exclusive investigation by the Associated Press disclosed five previously unreported mass graves of Rohingya villagers. More than two dozen survivors in Bangladesh refugee camps and time-stamped cell phone footage also confirmed the presence of such graves.
The report claimed the faces of the victims were either burned off by acid or simply riddled with bullets to make them unrecognizable.
However, it now appears the Myanmar government is going a step further than erasing their victims’ identity. According to a human rights group, the authorities in the Buddhist-majority country are now trying to destroy the evidence of their alleged crimes against humanity by bulldozing the mass graves containing the lifeless bodies of slain Rohingya civilians.
The Arakan Project, a group that mostly focuses its research and advocacy activities on the northern part of Rakhine/Arakan State, recorded a video of a grave site in Maung Nu, Buthidaung township, being flattened out and sent it to The Guardian. The graphic footage reportedly showed “half-buried tarpaulin bags in a forest clearing, with a decaying leg visibly protruding from one of the bags.”
Last year in August, Human Rights Watch had reported a state-sanctioned massacre in Maung Nu, where the soldiers had assaulted, stabbed, raped and fatally shot villagers who had gathered for safety in a residential compound following an attack on a local security outpost and a military base, allegedly carried out by Rohingya villagers.
“All the horrors of the Burmese army’s crimes against humanity against the Rohingya are evident in the mass killings in Maung Nu village,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, had said at the time. “These atrocities demand more than words from concerned governments; they need concrete responses with consequences.”
However, the fact that Myanmar government and its de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who keep denying the atrocities carried out by the regime against the Rohingya Muslim civilians, is going to such lengths to hide its crime is extremely alarming.
“Two of the mass graves sites we know about have appeared in the media, but on Thursday one of the other mass grave sites was bulldozed. This means that evidence of the killings is being destroyed,” explained Arakan Project Director Chris Lewa. “Private companies are doing the bulldozing. They come from central Myanmar, not Rakhine. It’s clear this is happening under the orders of government.”
More than 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh after Burmese army launched state-sanctioned crackdown on Rohingya villages in August 2017, subjecting the civilians to brutal violence, rape, arson, shootings, assaults and torture.
However, those asylum seekers did not find reprieve even in Cox’s Bazaar, one of the largest refugee camps in the world, as Myanmar managed to strike a deal with Bangladesh not just to stop the influx of refugees but also to take back those who had made their way through great peril to the neighboring country.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Mohammad Ponir Hossain