Myanmar government and its de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi may keep denying the atrocities carried out by the regime against the Rohingya Muslim civilians, whom the state doesn’t even consider its citizens, but the latest evidence about the genocidal campaign not only exposes the magnitude of such violence but also highlights how far the Burmese military goes to hide its brutalities.
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 cellphone footage also confirmed the presence of such graves.
What’s even more horrific is the face of the victims were either burned off by acid or simply riddled with bullets — making them unrecognizable.
“I couldn’t move,” recalled Noor Kadir, who works as a firewood collector. “I thought I was dead. I began to forget why I was there, to forget that all around me people were dying.”
Kadir, a resident of Gu Dar Pyin village in Myanmar, said he and 14 of his friends were in the process of selecting players for a local football-style game of chinlone when the military suddenly opened fire at them. The villagers dispersed, trying to save their lives. However, once the mass shooting came to a stop, only Kadir and two of his teammates were left alive.
It took the 24-year-old, who was shot twice in the foot, a couple of days to finally discover the dead bodies of his friends. To his horror, he found them half-buried in a mass grave, their features almost unrecognizable. In fact, Kadir was only able to identify them through the color of their shorts.
“It was a mixed-up jumble of corpses piled on top of each other,” Kadir explained. “I felt such sorrow for them.”
He also saw at least four plastic containers with acid.
The shooting was followed by an attack by the Buddhists from neighboring villages, who reportedly slaughtered the injured survivors, threw small children and elderly into the fires and burned down the rest of the village.
“People were screaming, crying, pleading for their lives, but the soldiers just shot continuously,” 23-year-old Mohammad Rayes, a schoolteacher who was able to save his life by climbing up a tree, told the news agency.
The horrific incident took place in September. Nearly three months later, Myanmar acknowledged one mass grave, claiming it contained the corpses of 10 “terrorists” officials killed in the village of Inn Din.
“The AP's report that (soldiers) brought along to Gu Dyar Pin village containers of acid to disfigure the bodies and make identification more difficult is particularly damning because it shows a degree of pre-planning of these atrocities,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch. “It's time for EU and the US to get serious about identifying and leveling targeted sanctions against the Burmese military commanders and soldiers responsible for these rights crimes.”
He also said the presence of such graves “raises the stakes for the international community to demand accountability from Myanmar.”
As the Associated Press reported, the satellite images show a rubble and burned homes where the village of Gu Dar Pyin, now inaccessible to public, once stood.
“Community leaders in the refugee camps have compiled a list of 75 dead so far, and villagers estimate the toll could be as high as 400, based on testimony from relatives and the bodies they’ve seen in the graves and strewn about the area, the report continued. “A large number of the survivors carry scars from bullet wounds, including a 3-year-old boy and his grandmother.”
Amnesty International believes the discovery of five mass graves is “the tip of an iceberg.”
More than 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh after Burmese army launched state-sanctioned crackdown on Rohingya villages in August 2017. The refugees shared the gut-wrenching tales of brutal violence, rape, arson, shootings, assaults and torture at the hands of the authorities.
However, those asylum seekers were unable to find reprieve even in Cox’s Bazaar, one of the largest refugee camps in the world, as the controversial Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi managed to strike a deal with Bangladesh not just to stop the influx of Rohingya refugees but also to take back those who had made their way through great peril to the neighboring country.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Tyrone Siu