CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 October 2018

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More mass graves reported in Rakhine

DHAKA and MANDALAY (UCAN): Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have reacted with anger and dismay to a February 1 report from the Associated Press (AP) that said mass graves had been found at Gu Dar Pyin village in Buthidaung township in northern Rakhine State. The detailed report alleged that Buddhist neighbours allegedly assisted the military in carrying out the massacre. 
 
Every villager interviewed by AP reported seeing three large mass graves at Gu Dar Pyin’s northern entrance near the main road where witnesses say soldiers herded and killed most of the Rohingya. 
 
A handful of witnesses confirmed the location of two other big graves near a hillside cemetery and smaller graves scattered around the village.
 
Jamal Ahmed, a father of six who fled from Maungdaw in Rakhine to Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, with his family mid-September last year, said that he was not surprised by the news of the atrocity.
 
“On our way to Bangladesh, we saw three Rohingya were shot dead by the military in a village. We were so afraid of being caught, so we hid in the forest for two days and nights to avoid military patrols,” he said.
 
“It’s been reported 400 people were murdered in Gu Dar Pyin village, but I can affirm many more were killed. The military tried to hide many bodies but not all,” Ahmed said. 
 
Mg Mg, a Rohingya resident in Buthidaung, said military units arrived in Gu Dar Pyin on the evening of February 1 and that senior military officials, border guard forces and local administrators were supposed to visit the village on February 2.
 
“There will be more mass graves in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships and the death toll from the Gu Dar Pyin massacre could be higher,” Mg Mg said.
 
Myanmar’s military and Aung San Suu Kyi’s government have yet to comment on the AP report.
 
United Nations (UN) spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, called the report “extremely troubling.” He said the report “underscores the need for the UN to have access to Rakhine.”
 
In the United States of America, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “We are watching this very carefully. We remain focused on helping to ensure the accountability of those responsible for human rights abuses and violations.”
 
She said the US was “deeply, deeply troubled by those reports of mass graves.”
 
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the report raised the stakes for the international community to demand accountability from Myanmar. 
 
“The UN Security Council should also take a decision to refer the Myanmar security forces’ actions to the International Criminal Court for a thorough investigation and effective prosecution,” Robertson said.
 
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh complied a list of almost 4,400 Rohingya killed in Rakhine since October 2016 and gave it to UN envoy Yanghee Lee, according to a BenarNews report.
 
The data was collected by Rohingya leaders who went door to door in refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh, according to people who took part in the effort. The list states that in Maungdaw alone, the worst hit of three townships, 2,354 people were killed and there could be 106 mass graves.
 
Doctors Without Borders said in its own survey in December, that at least 9,000 Rohingya Muslims were killed in Rakhine during the first month of the August 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military. 
 
More than 770,000 refugees have fled into Bangladesh following the bloody crackdown on Rohingya after attacks by Rohingya militants in October 2016 and August 2017.

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