Mass Graves Discovered in Myanmar

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

RAKHINE, Myanmar – Amongst the ethnic conflict between Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar (Burma), a mass grave of 28 Hindus was found on 24 September 2017. The Myanmar army discovered the two pits near Yebawkya Village. The Information Committee confirmed the news later that day in a Facebook post.

Myanmar’s government response on Facebook to discovery of first mass grave. Photo Courtesy of BBC News.

The Rakhine state is the scene of tense ethnic fighting between the Hindus and Rohingya Muslims that has spanned several years. However, the state has been in a state of crisis since the Rohingya militants attacked 30 police posts. The government responded with a military offensive that the UN declares as an act of ethnic cleansing against the Muslims. The High Commissioner called the government attacks disproportionate.

Hindu refugees from an attack on 25 August 2017 stated that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)* militants stormed a Hindu village in the north of the Rakhine state, killing many. Others were escorted into the forest. A list of 102 missing people has been presented by Hindu women who fled the village. The Myanmar government is working to confirm this list.

In the meantime, the military is searching for more mass graves and bodies in the same area that original two graves were found. One day later, 25 September, the military found 17 more bodies 200 yards away from the mass graves. Members of the village were present to identify the bodies. In a statement from the government, the bodies were found blindfolded with slit throats and hands bound.

The Myanmar government has not released a formal statement on who committed the crime. The military supports the idea that those responsible are members of ARSA. ARSA militants fight for the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state. An ARSA spokesman denies these accusations calling them “lies,” and reminds the community that “ARSA has internationally pledged not to target civilians.”

Currently, the government keeps Myanmar closed to foreigners, journalists and media personal specifically. Therefore, obtaining a neutral and independent view is difficult.

It is important to note that the majority of those afflicted by the ethnic violence in the Rakhine state are the Rohingya Muslims. There is little sympathy for the group. They are not universally considered citizens of Myanmar, but rather classified as invaders from Bangladesh. The Myanmar government seeks to rid out Rohingya militants. However over 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past month to escape the government violence.

For more information, please see:

Newsweek – MYANMAR CRISIS: AS ARMY CLAIMS DISCOVERY OF ‘MASS HINDU GRAVE’ U.N. SEEKS AID FOR TRAUMATIZED ROHINGYA” – 25 September 2017

The New York Times – “Myanmar Follows Global Pattern in How Ethnic Cleansing Begins” – 18 September 2017

The Hindu – “Myanmar looks for more Hindu corpses as mass grave unearthed” – 25 September 2017

Reuters – “Myanmar finds more bodies in mass grave; UN seeks rapid aid increase” – 25 September 2017

The BBC – ” ‘Mass Hindu grave’ found in Myanmar’s Rakhine state” – 25 September 2017 

Kyrgyzstan Post-Ethnic Revolution Reform

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – The efforts to achieve “inter-ethnic reconciliation and integration” following the violent events in Southern Kyrgyzstan last June, when over 435 people dead and nearly 2,500 others injured between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities during an inter-ethnic conflict, has been difficult.

People display a Kyrgyz national flag in front of the government building in Bishkek on Thursday. (EPA)
People display a Kyrgyz national flag in front of the government building in Bishkek on Thursday. (EPA)

The European Union has praised Kyrgyzstan’s reform agenda for stabilization and democratization, describing it as “ambitious”. Further reforms are critical to stability in southern Kyrgyzstan as the situation in the volatile region is “not optimistic,” chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Thursday.

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis vowed to help Kyrgyzstan bolster its stability, security and parliamentary system during his March 2-3 trip to Osh and Bishkek.

“It is essential to strengthen dialogue between the ethnic communities. The OSCE supports Kyrgyzstan in meeting these challenges, in particular ready to support a national consultative mechanism on police reform and criminal justice.”

“Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to restore stability after last year’s tragic events are commendable, I encourage the government to continue reforms, particularly ahead of the forthcoming presidential election,” he concluded.

“We must address acute security concerns, including threats to border security. But ensuring long-term security in the country also requires reform of the police and judiciary, policies to promote economic stability and respect for the rights of all members of society,” Azubalis said..

“The efforts of state-building in Kyrgyzstan and of bolstering its democracy and economy should draw on the citizenship of its people – and not simply their ethnicity,” said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

The OSCE is also determined to continue co-operating with Kyrgyzstan in battling trans-national threats like terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and unsecure borders, by coordinating with international partners like the UN and European Union, said Ažubalis.

Kyrgyzstan President Roza Otunbayeva has played a key role in two revolutions.

Roza Otunbayeva inspired the protest movement; often considered a philosopher and diplomat, she took the helm of the country and guided it through a difficult and dangerous transition period, declaring war on corruption, the clan system, nationalism and religious extremism.

Her first vistory was ridding the country of its then leader, President Akayev in 2005. Five years later President Bakiyev‎ was removed by a similar popular revolution.

A year ago a number of opposition parties came together, united in aversion to Bakiyev‎‘s corrupt regime. Realizing then the need to move toward a parliamentary form of government.

“Recent events in North Africa allow us to see things in a different light. It’s clear that these types of people, who allegedly order mass killings, should be punished”, said Otunbayeva referring to Bakiyev and his family tree of corruption being the center of all atrocities that took place within the countries recent history.

“A society influenced by criminality has no future. So one needs a clear and strong plan of action. The people will always support authorities or leaders who really want to clean up the country,” said Otunbayeva.

For more information, please see:

XINHUA news – Reforms critical to Kyrgyzstan’s stability: OCSE chairman – 4 March 2011

Europolitics – EU Praises Kyrgyzstan Reform Agenda – 1 March 2011

Central Asia Online – OSCE to help Kyrgyz stability, security, parliament – 3 March 2011

Euro News – Kyrgyzstan: Politics post revolution – 4 March 2011