YANGON, May 23 - Rohingya militants massacred Hindu villagers during last year’s uprising in Myanmar’s Rakhine, Amnesty International said today in a report that sheds fresh light on the complex ethnic rivalries in the state.
The killings took place on August 25, 2017, the report said, the same day that the Rohingya insurgents staged coordinated deadly raids on police posts that tipped the state into crisis.
Myanmar’s military responded to the insurgent raids with harsh reprisals that forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the mainly Buddhist country where they have faced persecution for years.
The UN says the army crackdown amounted to “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya, with soldiers and vigilante mobs accused of killing civilians and burning down villages.
But the Rohingya militants have also been accused of abuses.
Those include the mass killing of Hindus in the far north of Rakhine, where the military took reporters – including AFP – to witness the exhumation of putrid bodies from a shallow grave in September.
The militants, known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), denied responsibility at the time.
But Amnesty International said on Wednesday that a new investigation had confirmed the group killed 53 Hindus “execution-style” – mostly children – in the Kha Maung Seik village cluster in northern Maungdaw.
“Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine state,” said Tirana Hassan, crisis response director at Amnesty International.
Citing interviews with eight survivors, the rights group said dozens of people were rounded up, blindfolded and marched out of town by masked men and Rohingya villagers in plain clothes.
“They slaughtered the men. We were told not to look at them... They had knives. They also had some spades and iron rods,” 18-year-old Raj Kumari told Amnesty.
He said he hid in the bush and watched as his father, brother and uncle were killed.
The report said that in a separate village nearby called Ye Bauk Kyar, 46 Hindu men, women and children disappeared on the same day. It cited information from local Hindus who believe they were killed by ARSA.
While Rakhine was home mainly to Buddhists and Muslims before the crisis, it also has a small but longstanding Hindu minority – many of whom were brought in by British colonisers looking for cheap labour — as well as several other smaller ethnic groups.
“The killers fled to Bangladesh, there are many witnesses but we have not had any justice,” Hindu community leader Ni Maul told AFP from Rakhine state. “People have less interest in these killings,” he added, compared to reporting on the atrocities against the Rohingya. – AFP