Dhaka doubts AI report on killing of Hindu villagers

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 00:04, May 24,2018 | Updated: 20:25, May 24,2018

 
 

Bangladesh authorities on Wednesday expressed their suspicion about a report of the Amnesty International that claimed to have gathered evidence of Rohingya Muslim armed group killing scores of Hindu civilians in August last year.
‘From where the Amnesty [International] have found [the information],’ foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali said on Wednesday as his attention was drawn to a report of the rights group. ‘There might have some motives,’ he said.
Amnesty International might have prepared the report with very limited information as there ‘was an evident information vacuum’ on the ground situation in Rakhine State, where Myanmar military authorities did not allow a single person apart from state-managed trips, a senior Bangladesh diplomat with knowledge of the matter told New Age.
Bangladesh ‘condemns violence’ against anyone irrespective of ethnicity and religion of the victims, said the official.
Bangladesh strongly ‘believes that all activities in Rakhine State’ since August 25 last year were conducted either directly by the Myanmar security forces or by the groups of local people backed by the forces, said the diplomat.
Expressing his doubt about the existence of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the diplomat said it was almost impossible to operate for a poorly organised group, if there was really any, in inaccessible terrains of hills and water-bodies, which were under tight control of the Myanmar military much before the security operations.
Amnesty International said masked ARSA fighters killed as many as 99 Hindus near a remote village named Kha Maung Seik shortly after launching the coordinated attacks on security posts, according to Reuters.
The AI cited witnesses, including eight Hindu women, who alleged they were abducted by ARSA fighters and forced to convert to Islam. Some of the women had earlier told media including Reuters that their loved ones were killed by Buddhists, but later recanted their stories, saying they had been coerced by their captors.
Myanmar is majority Buddhist, and the Rohingyas are Muslim. The country also has a Christian minority and a smaller number of Hindus.
Myanmar authorities unearthed 45 bodies in September near Kha Maung Seik and accused the ARSA of carrying out the killings.
ARSA said in a Sept. 27 statement it ‘categorically denied that any of its members or combatants perpetrated murder’ and other abuses in villages, including Kha Maung Seik.
Amnesty International also said it had documented a separate killing of six Hindus by ARSA fighters on August 26 near the town of Maungdaw.
Reporters have been unable freely to visit parts of northern Rakhine for more than 18 months.
A military response to insurgent attacks on 30 police posts and an army base in northern Rakhine state the early hours of August 25 pushed almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims across the border to Bangladesh, many accusing security forces of killings, rape, and arson.
Senior UN officials have said the response amounted to ethnic cleansing and that Myanmar’s security forces might have committed genocide.
ARSA reportedly emerged as a group with earlier attacks on border posts in 2016.

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