Bound together, shot to death: Myanmar massacre report prompts calls for independent probe
Reuters report marked 1st time soldiers and paramilitary police have been implicated by testimony
A Reuters investigation into the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has prompted demands for a credible probe into the bloodshed there and calls for the release of two journalists who were arrested while working on the report.
The special report, published overnight, lays out events leading up to the killing of 10 Rohingya men from Inn Din village in Rakhine state who were buried in a mass grave after being hacked to death or shot by Buddhist neighbours and soldiers.
"This once more attests to the need for a full and thorough investigation by the authorities of all violence in Rakhine State and attacks on the various communities there," UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters.
On Sept. 2, Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops killed the 10 men in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state.
Bound together, the 10 captives watched their Buddhist neighbours dig a shallow grave. Soon afterwards, all 10 lay dead. At least two were hacked to death by villagers. The rest were shot by Myanmar troops, two of the gravediggers said.
"One grave for 10 people," said Soe Chay, 55, a retired soldier from Inn Din's Rakhine Buddhist community who said he helped dig the pit and saw the killings. The soldiers shot each man two or three times, he said.
'Still making noises' when buried
"When they were being buried, some were still making noises. Others were already dead."
"As with other, previous reports of mass graves, this report highlights the ongoing and urgent need for Burmese authorities to co-operate with an independent, credible investigation into allegations of atrocities in northern Rakhine," Nauert said.
"Such an investigation would help provide a more comprehensive picture of what happened, clarify the identities of the victims, identify those responsible for human rights abuses and violations, and advance efforts for justice and accountability," she said.
The account marked the first time soldiers and paramilitary police have been implicated by testimony from security personnel in arson and killings in the north of Rakhine state that the United Nations has said may amount to genocide.
In the story, Myanmar said its "clearance operation" is a legitimate response to attacks by insurgents.
Asked about the evidence Reuters had uncovered about the massacre, Myanmar government spokesperson Zaw Htay said on Thursday, before publication of the report: "We are not denying the allegations about violations of human rights. And we are not giving blanket denials."
If there was "strong and reliable primary evidence" of abuses, the government would investigate, he said. There was no comment from the government following the publication of the report.
'A turning point'
"We've been bystanders to a genocide," she said. "This evidence marks a turning point because, for the first time since this all started to unfold in August, we have heard from the perpetrators themselves."
Human Rights Watch said Myanmar's military leaders should be held accountable in an international court for alleged crimes against the Rohingya population.
"As more evidence comes out about the pre-planning and intent of the Myanmar armed forces to wipe out Rohingya villages and their inhabitants, the international community … needs to focus on how to hold the country's military leaders accountable," said HRW's deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
Campaign group Fortify Rights also called for an independent investigation.
Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights investigator for Myanmar who has been barred from visiting the Rohingya areas, echoed that call and added in a tweet: "Independent & credible investigation needed to get to the bottom of the Inn Din massacre."
Police arrested two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, on Dec. 12 for allegedly obtaining confidential documents relating to Rakhine and have accused them of violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act. They are in prison while a court decides if they should be charged under the colonial-era act.