Friday, February 02, 2018

Myanmar: The Ultimate Persecution

"There were so many bodies in so many different places."
"They couldn't hide all the death."
Mohammed Lalmia, 20, Rohingya farmer

"The Myanmar government will not deny any human rights violations and will investigate if there is strong evidence. And if there are human rights violations after an investigation, prosecutors will take actions according to the law."
"[In regard to Gu Dar Pyin village], the preliminary result of the examination has proven that AP's report is wrong,"
Government of Myanmar statement

"There were dead bodies everywhere, bones and body parts, all decomposing, so I couldn't tell which one was my husband. "
"I was weeping while I was there. I was crying loudly, 'Where did you go? Where did you go?"'
"I have lost everything."
Rohima Khatu, 45, Rohingya Muslim refugee, Bangladesh refugee camp
This combination of May 26, 2017, left, and Dec. 20, 2017, satellite images provided by DigitalGlobe show the village of Gu Dar Pyin, Myanmar before and after destruction. The Associated Press has confirmed more than five previously unreported mass g
This combination of May 26, 2017, left, and Dec. 20, 2017, satellite images provided by DigitalGlobe show the village of Gu Dar Pyin, Myanmar before and after destruction. The Associated Press has confirmed more than five previously unreported mass graves in the village through multiple interviews with more than two dozen survivors in Bangladesh refugee camps and through time-stamped cellphone videos. The Myanmar government regularly claims massacres like Gu Dar Pyin never happened, and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 “terrorists” in the village of Inn Din. (DigitalGlobe via AP)

No outside agency is able to approach Gu Dar Pyin, in Myanmar's western Rakhine state. It is where villagers who survived a military attack on their village describe what occurred there. There is nothing left of the village; all the homes have been reduced to ash. There are hastily-dug 'graves', large holes in the ground into which bodies were pitched. Some are mass graves, others, smaller and shallower hold only several corpses apiece. Many of the corpses' faces were destroyed by acid, defying identification. The clothes they wear, however, can be recognized.

Associated Press has interviewed the villagers now occupying space in the bare haven of the refugee camps that Bangladesh hosts. Most of the interviewed villagers describe three large mass graves at the northern entrance to Gu Dar Pyin. It was where, close to the main road, soldiers herded together and killed many of the Rohingya from the village.

According to survivors, the military planned the attack on August 27 and attempted to screen the slaughter. They arrived armed with rifles, knives, rocket launchers and grenades. Bringing with them as well, shovels to dig the pits they hurled the bodies into, and acid to burn faces and hands to make them unidentifiable. Days previous to the attack, said villagers, soldiers were observed with a dozen large acid containers at a market in a nearby village.

Several hundred soldiers moved into Gu Dar Pyin from a Buddhist village to the south, firing weapons as they entered the village. Those who could react ran swiftly toward the north or to a river to the east, according to the testimony of 37-year-old Mohammad Sha, a farmer and shop owner. She had concealed herself in a grove of coconut trees close to the river along with over a hundred others and witnessed soldiers searching Muslim homes.

From neighbouring villages, dozens of Buddhists partly covering their faces with scarves, took possession of items from the homes before they were torched, loading them into pushcarts and taking them away to their own village, their actions observed by the hidden villagers. Those who hadn't fled were summarily shot by the soldiers, while another group of soldiers came in from the north to encircle the village, trapping those whom they could.

Buddhists from surrounding villages were seen to move through Gu Dar Pyin, using knives to cut the throats of injured Rohingha, according to survivors. They worked alongside the soldiers to toss small children and the elderly into the fires. "People were screaming, crying, pleading for their lives, but the soldiers just shot continuously", Mohammad Rayes, 23, a schoolteacher who had climbed a tree and witnessed the events, stated.

For days afterward, Rohingya from the surrounding area made their way stealthily into Gu Dar Pyin to rescue any they could, who had been left for dead. Thousands remained hidden deep within the jungle, where infants and toddlers died from lack of food and water. A day later, Gu Dar Pyin was completely put to the torch.

Rohingya Muslim refugee Mohammad Karim, 26, centre, shows a mobile video of Gu Dar Pyin's massacre to other refugees in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, on Jan. 14.
Rohingya Muslim refugee Mohammad Karim, 26, centre, shows a mobile video of Gu Dar Pyin's massacre to other refugees in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, on Jan. 14. (Manish Swarup/Associated Press)

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