Press Release – Burma Human Rights Network:  Investigation Needed in Northern Rakhine State into Possibility of More Mass Graves

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16 January, 2018, London, UK — The Burma Human Rights Network believes the recent admission of guilt in the murder of ten Rohingya found in a mass grave in Inn Din village is only a small portion of greater crimes which occured in the area that have yet to be acknowledged. The area where the bodies were found was one where a large number of human rights violations occurred before and after the attacks by Rohingya insurgents on August 25th which resulted in a military campaign against the civilian population which has displaced more than half of the Rohingya population from the country.

“The admission of guilt by the Burmese Military in regards to the ten Rohingya bodies discovered in a mass grave is an unusual step by a military often inclined to deny any wrongdoing in conflict while committing egregious human rights violations regularly. Our research in Inn Din and the surrounding villages has indicated far worse atrocities has been committed by the security forces.” said Kyaw Win, Executive Director of BHRN.

The grave in question contained the bodies of ten villagers in Inn Din Village, which is situated in Southern Maungdaw Township and has been one of several villages in Rathedaung and southern Maungdaw where witnesses say mass killings took place.

Authorities claimed that the those who were killed were captured insurgents who were killed due to lack of ability to transport them amid a supposed ongoing threat. The military also claimed that the killings were committed by local villagers and security forces, partially in retaliation for a local man believed to have been killed by Rohingya insurgents. This statement is unusually forward by authorities, but the truth about all of these claims remain uncertain, particularly if the men who were killed were actually connected to insurgent groups.

Shortly after this admission of guilt by the Burmese Military, BBC Burmese reported witnesses in Kanyin Tan village in southern Maungdaw Township  who stated that 28 bodies of Rohingya civilians who had been killed during the military’s campaign were buried in a local cemetery. Locals who witnessed this said they were afraid of reprisal attacks by the military if they spoke out. This incident, as with other areas in the region affected during the conflict, need further investigation by UN mandated fact finding mission and Burma needs to grant full access for such an investigation to take place.

The incidents in this region were also connected to investigations by Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who have been detained and charged with violating the countries antiquated Secrets Act after seemingly being set up with falsified evidence that they received confidential material related to the Military’s plans in Rakhine State. The reuters journalists also met with villagers from Inn Din village and 5 of these villagers were later detained by the authorities on December 15th, according to DVB Burmese. Four of the men were released after, and when contacted by journalists for comment the villagers stated they did not want to speak to any media. At this time the arrest of the Reuters journalists coupled with the disclosure of extrajudicial assassinations would seem to have possible connections where the military may hope to suppress evidence or regain some control over the narrative about the conflict.

The Burma Human Rights Network calls on Burma to be completely transparent regarding events in this region and to allow the UN mandated fact-finding mission and media full access to the area to properly assess what occurred there in the past year. The international community must take appropriate steps to ensure this investigation can take place and that proper mechanisms can be implemented based on the mission’s findings to address the grievances of the displaced and all affected in the state to allow them to then work towards a more peaceful, just and prosperous future.

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