The Burma/Myanmar government has officially denied the existence of the mass graves reported by the Associated Press recently. In a press release only accessible by the state-owned media organizations, officials said that they launched an investigation in Gutar Pyin and quickly found no such mass graves.
Instead, the military says that they came into contact with local militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), one of the groups they often claim are the inciting element to any violence against the Rohingya. They say they were attacked by 500 people armed with guns, knives, slingshots and darts, and that the fighting claimed many lives — but the lives of enemy combatants, not civilians.
“Muslim community leaders say there was no mass killing in Gutar Pyin village as has been reported by media outlets. It’s all based on groundless information,” said U Tin Maung Swe, the government secretary in Rakhine State, home of the Rohingya.
U Tin Maung Swe says that any burned buildings in the village in question were burned by ARSA and not the military.
The press release was only open to the state-owned media groups and someone from the Press Council. They excluded local and international media groups unaffiliated with the Burmese government. Sources tell SOFREP that they meet any information coming from the state-owned groups with skepticism.
At least five mass graves were reported by AP. Estimates range from 75 dead to 400, though these recent estimates given by the government of 500 “militants” could suggest the number is even higher. The methods of attack used in the story reported by AP is consistent with methods used by the Burmese Army in previous attacks against civilians — Rohingya, Karen, Karenni, Shan alike.
They then proceeded to either burn the faces of many of the men with acid, or to shoot them beyond recognition to prevent identification.
“It was a mixed-up jumble of corpses piled on top of each other,”one witness said, “I felt such sorrow for them.”
Recently, the Burmese military did admit to the existence of a mass grave in Inn Din, where they found 10 bodies killed by soldiers who had said they were going after “terrorists.” This was significant, as the government rarely admits responsibility for tragedies like this, no matter how many external sources document it first-hand.
However, as SOFREP’s sources have described skepticism toward anything coming out of the state-owned media, some were skeptical as to the intentions of this admission of guilt. It may be easier to swallow a lie if it comes right after a truth, or so some say.
Still, officials continue to deny reports by AP who had interviewed over 20 refugees coming from the scene of the massacre.
The U.N. has described the violence that has transpired over the last few months as “textbook ethnic cleansing.” The Burmese military has driven well over half a million Rohingya over the border to Bangladesh, and the fighting doesn’t seem to be letting up.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.