Stephan Uttom, Dhaka, Bangladesh and John Zaw, Mandalay
Updated: March 22, 2018 09:23 AM GMT
Rohingya who entered Bangladesh by boat walk towards refugee camps after landing at Saplapur beach in the Teknaf district on Nov. 9. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August telling tales of murder, rape and arson at the hands of Myanmar's army. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)
The Myanmar military has been acused of the rape and murder of hundreds of people in the village of Tula Toli, in a new report by Human Rights Watch.
The report, "Massacre by the River: Burmese Army Crimes against Humanity in Tula Toli" drew on interviews with 18 Rohingya survivors from Tula Toli in Bangladesh refugee camps, as well the group’s broader investigation into the Myanmar military’s operations against the Rohingya, including interviews with more than 200 refugees since September.
"The Burmese army’s atrocities at Tula Toli were not just brutal, they were systematic," said Brad Adams HRW's Asia director. "Soldiers carried out killings and rapes of hundreds of Rohingya with a cruel efficiency that could only come with advance planning."
The report said: "Tula Toli was a massacre that left an entire village destroyed. Satellite imagery reviewed by Human Rights Watch confirms that the Rohingya villages of Tula Toli and Dual Toli—with a total of 746 buildings—were completely destroyed by arson, while the neighboring non-Rohingya villages remain intact. The horrors of Tula Toli recall the very worst massacres in past decades elsewhere in the world."
Myanmar’s military has not responded to the HRW report.
Pe Than, a lower house MP for the hardline Buddhist Arakan National Party in Rakhine State, claimed it was difficult to ascertain the truth and credibility of the HRW report as their information was based only on interviews with refugees in Bangladesh.
"Rights groups reports are exaggerated and they may have a political agenda behind the move. They are attempting to get Myanmar’s government to be sued at the International Criminal Court," Pe Than, an ethnic Rakhine, told ucanews.com.
He added that constant international pressure on Myanmar’s government would not be helpful for stability in Rakhine State and it may create more chaos and unrest in the region.
Sultan, a Rohingya resident from Maungdaw, in northern Rakhine State, said he had heard about the massacre in Tula Toli village which is situated to the north of Maungdaw
Many people from other villages fled to Tula Toli village, so thousands of people were there when security forces allegedly committed killings and other abuses, Sultan told ucanewa.com by phone.
"Nobody remains in the village and even people from surrounding villages near Tula Toli have fled to Bangladesh. Only Rakhine villages still remain in the area," Sultan told ucanews.com.
Meanwhile, in the teeming refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, refugees had their own stories of military brutality.
"My two maternal cousins were shot dead by the military. Several women and girls from our family and relatives were raped and killed. Four soldiers raped me the night before Eid-ul-Azha (Eid of Sacrifice) festival. Those who survived like me were able to flee to Bangladesh," Sayeda Khatun, 25, a Muslim Rohingya who came to Bangladesh about two months ago from Buthidaung area of Rakhine, told ucanews.com.
She lives in Balukhali refugee camp with five family members and relatives.
"In Myanmar our family relied on agriculture for a living. We also worked as day laborers to fight off poverty. We had two tin-roof houses and both were destroyed in arson attacks. The plot is now empty," Khatun said.
"The Myanmar government and military cannot return to us what they have destroyed. But we demand justice for atrocities against Rohingya and punishment for the attackers."
"We have nothing left in Myanmar, so we want that upon our return, the government construct a house for us and feed us as long as needed. We don’t want to survive on the mercy of the government forever, but we need help to survive as we have lost everything. Peace must be restored and security ensured, so we can live there like other citizens with dignity and rights."
The HRW report came as the Myanmar military revealed it has discovered another "mass grave" near the town of Maungdaw, the epicenter of the violence in northern Rakhine.
The Tatmadaw True News Team said Dec. 18 that security forces had discovered several unidentified bodies in a "mass grave" at the edge of Inn Din village, southern Maungdaw. The site is still being investigated.