Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Gu Dar Pyin Massacre: Mass Grave Location

February 11, 2018
rough, incomplete

Background (may move and expand)
As I was wrapping up part III of Fake News and Massacre Marketing in the Rohingya Crisis for The Indicter, a new massacre story emerged and got a  decent starting analysis at the end of section 3.5. In review, ...
This cites an AP report of Feb. 1 By Foster Klug heralded: “AP confirms 5 unreported Myanmar mass graves” http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/ap-confirms-previously-unreported-myanmar-mass-graves-52755289 – Version with video: http://www.chron.com/news/crime/article/AP-confirms-5-previously-unreported-Myanmar-mass-12541732.php
at least 75 and perhaps 400 people were killed, innocent Muslims butchered by bloodthirsty Buddhists here in GuDar Pyin. But only so many (unclear) had been found in mass graves, some with faces and flesh burned away with some blue acid the soldiers brought with them: "The faces of the men half-buried in the mass graves had been burned away by acid or blasted by bullets. Noor Kadir could only recognize his friends by the colors of their shorts."

The Government found no mass graves of civilians, according to statement. As the Irriwaddy reported on February 3:
According to the government’s statement, 19 ARSA militants were killed in fighting after about 500 militants attacked security officials with firearms, knives, slingshots, and darts. Officials buried the bodies of the dead militants systematically and opened a criminal case under counter-terrorism Article 50 (i) at Nyaung Chaung police station. 
That would seem to run up against this video record. The raw video is of the most interest, but only snippets were shown. Luckily a pro-Rohingya activist posted five videos on Facebook. These show five bodies clearly, and parts or traces of a few others. The central scene, closes we get to seeing a "mass grave" is three half-buried bodies of fighting-age men. And that same scene was already shown on video back on August 31, at Rohingya Blogger, where we see there's at least a fourth body not seen in the later footage. These four bodies will be analyzed more elsewhere, but for reference, these are numbered in the order seen here in Aug. 31 video:

1. red shirt, black mask (like ARSA fighters wear), buried from the abdomen down, abdomen wound and shot in the left eye?
2. lone head set near buried body with only bare legs partly sticking out (presumed one victim, beheaded)
3. long-sleeved blue shirt, hands raised (rigor mortis?), buried up to the chest, no clear wounds
4. yellow shirt, buried up to the chest, head blown open

Are These Included?
I've had back and forth thoughts on this. As the article puts it, these four "seem executed, with one even beheaded. If this is another Inn Din, it seems to be uglier yet." (then I saw Inn Din was pretty ugly and includes a beheading...) But I'm not sure if these are militants, as the mask suggests, nor who killed them. Wouldn't they take a militant's mask off to maybe see who he is, long before killing him? Sure, and they might put it back on... who knows why.

But they could be civilians, with the mask added - by soldiers to justify the killing by making them look ARSA, or by the ARSA types who killed them, also just for the suggestion. At Inn Din, they went to great lengths to obscure the fairly obvious fact that the ten killed men were ARSA fighters. Why suggest that here if it weren't true?

First, it's better to have them seen as any kind of Rohingya if the victims were actually Rakhine civilians or others ...  Secondly, consider this scenario: 19 ARSA fighters were killed in this one clash, besides those wounded. That's because they lost badly, perhaps because the base they attacked was well-prepared, as many reportedly were based on last-minutes tip-offs. They had an unusually high number of Rohingya men buried here as a background issue and a source of anger. They also have someone who tipped the authorities off, leading to this great defeat. Or so they suspect, but it's hard to be sure or to say who it was. Still, they might go spy hunting in any accessible area, round up 4 infidel men they hated anyway, and execute them here as spies.

Considering the background loss, they might get clever and put one in the mask of a fallen comrade, even before shooting him dead. This would help sow the idea that these were the killed fighters the government will have to admit to. They leave them with faces unburied so we can see this, but smear mud on the faces of the others, and especially the eyes ... so we can't see their distinctive Rakhine features. They pour some blue crap to claim it's acid, so after the dogs eat their faces away, they can show that and say that's what the acid was for (it does't stand up to scrutiny, as I'll try to explain). 

Now the government had to admit to burying 19 killed attackers, but the ARSA guys have video we're to take as proof that ... the fighters were executed, and even beheaded, rather than killed in action, then buried sloppily with weird acid sludge to slowly dissolve them. Or if possible, they'll say these were civilians too, or who knows, but...

They'd also say these are the cleaner or unclear cases the killers left visible - to cameras. Aside from some other scenes described but not filmed ... somehow the regime limited the activist to filming just this scene, another with 2 bodies, and just a couple others with half a skeletal body and some partial ribs, somehow, almost all after everyone was reduced to bone. Somehow they delayed all recording in those cases, and somewhere they've still kept from view are the hacked-up babies and charred elders people describe seeing, but that no one filmed.

The central question to me at the moment was also posed by reporters at the Irriwaddy:
"The statement did not elaborate on whether security forces buried the ARSA casualties in the Gutar Pyin graveyard or in other locations.”
So it’s not clear if the bodies we see, improperly buried in a non-cemetery location, are the same ones they refer to. That mask suggests they were fighters, but it's not proof. So this is the most important question, perhaps. The government may get clearer on this point - may or may not locate this scene and give their own explanation for it - the cemetery location isn't clear for reference, but "near" a cemetery is a relevant locale, by the claims. Ominously, this is where the Inn Din victims were also buried. 

I haven't yet tried to geolocate anything in Myanmar - it's mostly fields and some trees, little that's distinct. Here there's no clear sunlight to establish directions... maybe, by correlating the earlier video with time-stamps, or something, I could find to solar angles and use shadows to set the directions...

general area, at the alleged one, is pretty clear - explained here
* Location on Wikimapia (currently in-labeled)

Scene A: Perhaps the only scene we'll consider here for now, is the one with four bodies. In the September 6 (?) video, from Ro Nay San Lwin on Facebook, we would see them in reverse order of numbering (as in analysis, elsewhere) - #4 isn't shown - need to correlate where he was - the first one seen here is #3, which must be just hidden behind those leaves on the right - it's just a few steps in but not visible until we get close, and see he's now headless, the sunken foot end of his grave flooded with rainwater, one hand missing and the other laying flat (rigor mortis faded?). Body #2 is visible from the start, boxed in red. As we get closer, we can also see the spot where #1 with the mask is, near the fence's corner (another wet gap in the grass there). More is seen, but this is where get our best stray frames with possibly adequate scenery clues. 

Directions, provisional (see below): we're facing northeast, so there's a line of trees to the north (left), open fields ahead to the right (ne and east), mountains seen in the distance to the northeast, blocked by some very large trees to the E-NE. This is from noting mountains will be seen in 2 directions - smaller ones very nearby to the west, or large ones further away to the east. These look semi-distant, and maybe a wider, deeper range like we see further inland (east). The north aspect of this northeast presumption is explained below.

Scene B ...briefly, another video shows bloody mud where people were killed, but no longer are. It's behind some row of little banana trees (?), and amidst a small or middling patch of other lager trees, apparently including at least one tall palm tree (glimpsed in a view ahead not included here). Looking back (right) might be southwest - we see open fields for a ways in that direction

This scene is most likely just off to the left side in the upper view, just behind those (banana?) trees along the left, with other trees including a palm further to the north or NE.  Between the small trees, we're looking out over a similar field, and maybe the same one. Near the likely path at the far edge of the near plot, there are a couple of little indents - possible where these bodies are. We might see on the right the gap in the hedges they walk through. There is a bit of a fence visible on the far left, but I can't verify if there is or isn't a collapsed section in the middle, or a lone little tree a ways inside the corner to match it to the above scene. The line of distant homes and trees is similar between scenes, but that, like everything here, if pretty common and generic. The grass in the field appears lusher in the view from scene B, but we don't know if they were filmed at the same time or after some growth.

From scene (or scene view) A: the distant mountains - with the right comparison work, the arrangement of these can say where it's filmed, or at least give a line of sight. I tried with Google Earth's terrain feature and low level-views and got a good lead. One mountain pops out as having the small, sharp-edged shape in the middle here - not an absolute match, but compelling. That's a bit southwest of Sanmyaywa, or several miles to the northeast of GuDarPyin. (38 km, heading ~45 degrees, from village center). 

The e
xact angle of view to this peak would vary a bit from positions outside of town, as this seems to be. (it would be a view more to the east if you're further north, or if south of the village, more of a north view). Just what explains the larger-seeming but more rounded peaks to the left and right, not so clear, and depends on the angle of view - the ones on the left may be nearer, the larger appearance suggests that, as does the haze difference, but this is unclear or slight - I could not find any angle of view that clearly explains this arrangement of peaks, with most lower peaks not coming trough like they truly would from the ground. Above I included a screen grab of a view from well south of Gu Dar Pyin and looking almost north, as one example. Better views might (or might not) be found closer to the village.  For example, from a bit north of the pin below, we might look up a ravine, with a long hill crest to the left and to the right, the peaks currently under the line.

Whatever the line of view to whatever peak, it will be about the angle of the field orientation here (edges and fences), and about the angle of that line of banana trees. If I have the right hill pegged, that should run somewhat northeast, depending how far it is from village center.

One possible area is just northwest of the village across some fields, 500m northeast of village center. Small square plots, Trees to north/NW, open fields to east and south... 2010 images shows strange round mounds now gone or unclear ... two homes on a hill next to this. (AP: "A handful of witnesses confirmed two other big graves near a hillside cemetery, and smaller graves scattered around the village.") Still, a few things about this spot don't seem quite right - the angle of fields is too north to match the line to that sharp peak, for one thing. The field division isn't right (but can change in years - last image is Jan. 11, 2014). Big trees too near on the right, etc. Really, I think it's just a similar spot. So if only to help visualize what I was looking for, here's that spot:

And maybe I don't even have the right peak to point to. I leave this undone and out there for anyone with better tools, local knowledge, etc. to possibly place this footage so we can see what that means. Like, is it just outside a Buddhist village 4 men vanished from at this time? (Is there such a place? Where is it, so we can narrow our search there and find or maybe rule out a match?)

To consider, from AP report:
Almost every villager interviewed by the AP saw 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 two other big graves near a hillside cemetery, and smaller graves scattered around the village.
Mohammad Younus, 25, was crawling on his hands and knees after being shot twice when his brother carried him to some underbrush, where Younus lay for seven hours. At one point, he saw three trucks stop and begin loading dead bodies before heading off toward the cemetery.
In the days and weeks after the attack, villagers braved the soldiers to try to find whatever was left of their loved ones. Dozens of bodies littered the paths and compounds of the wrecked homes; they filled latrine pits. The survivors soon learned that taller, darker green patches of rice shoots in the paddies marked the spots where the dead had fallen.
Bloated bodies began to rise to the surface of the rain-saturated graves.
"There were so many bodies in so many different places," said Mohammad Lalmia, 20, a farmer whose family owned a pond that became the largest of the mass graves. "They couldn't hide all the death."
On Sept. 9, villager Mohammad Karim, 26, captured three videos of mass graves time-stamped between 10:12 a.m. and 10:14 a.m., when soldiers chased him away, he said. In the Bangladesh refugee camps, nearly two dozen other Rohingya from Gu Dar Pyin confirmed that the videos showed mass graves in the north of the village.
(by inclusion, it's suggested the video cited here with beheaded body #2 is what this refers to - those legs are shown in the AP video report)

Inn Din Massacre: Review of Reuters Special Report

February 11, 2018

I've written about the Inn Din massacre here in January and then at the Indicter. Now the story has evolved with a long-awaited Reuters report:
Massacre in Myanmar A REUTERS SPECIAL REPORT How Myanmar forces burned, looted and killed in a remote village

This is the investigative piece their reporters Lone and Oo were working on when arrested in December. They remain in jail now on debatable charges. Two other reporters including Simon Lewis helped wrap it up. The report poses as a case-closed super-expose, and it does feature a lot of useful information. But some of it's uncertain and some of it is surely untrue.

The report claims Buddhist locals agree with Rohingya ones that there was no ARSA attack, and that they all happily helped burn the Bengali (Kalar) areas with the intent to drive them out, even though some homes had people still inside. The Reuters team heard that this happened at Inn Din and one other location they got admissions for. They also heard about the looting and re-selling of property.

I doubt the gist of such claims, whoever they're from; in general, I find the government's claims of a fake crisis with Rohingya burning their own villages compelling. It's not proven, and may not be the complete explanation, but I suspect it is the main story - even if every claim in this article is true. And it seems odd how only these two journalists now in jail had the magic to get so many admissions when such things are usually denied. How many secret ARSA supporters are there inside the military? I wouldn't think many. How many corrupt people willing to be bribed to tell a bogus story, most of them anonymously? I would suspect there are a few. Either way, this much-quoted witness sounds dubious:
A medical assistant at the Inn Din village clinic, Aung Myat Tun, 20, said he took part in several raids. “Muslim houses were easy to burn because of the thatched roofs. You just light the edge of the roof,” he said. “The village elders put monks’ robes on the end of sticks to make the torches and soaked them with kerosene. We couldn’t bring phones. The police said they will shoot and kill us if they see any of us taking photos.”
But much of the information at least is valid - some of it is photographic (some photos were allowed!) and seems to tie together. We do know there was a grisly mass execution in this case. Perhaps at Inn Din they made the whole story true, burning and looting included (but with no huge massacre of everyone on the beach, as alleged at Tula Toli). If that's the case, it opens the possibility of the same in other areas, but comes nowhere near proving it. I may look deeper into these claims in a section at the end, but for now, I leave it at maybe, and turn back to the details of the central massacre everyone agrees was committed by security forces and Buddhist locals.

At the start, even if all the side-claims here are true, there's still little reason to accept the rest of the ridiculous record of allegations against Myanmar's military and Buddhist community, or take this as a good precedent. Amnesty International’s regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, called the government's“grisly admission” just “the tip of the iceberg” of crimes in their "ethnic cleansing campaign.” (see here) But interestingly, as Gomez failed to note, the admission did NOT confirm what Amnesty's investigators had learned. He was in a very weak position to talk, having their own work just undermined (see below). And I contend it's most likely the entire iceberg, and not just the tip of it. As I noted earlier, only this case stood out for signs of real evidence and having a realistic story, while "other alleged massacres are of a vastly different character and scale, with scores or hundreds of civilians, even babies, killed with utmost cruelty and for no reasons. So [far] these are also lacking in evidence like bodies found. These Myanmar will probably continue to deny, and perhaps they would be right to do so."

Either way, even with this clearest massacre yet, there are key parts that are probably not true. One oddity at least pops out here: Witnesses say Abdulmalik (the religious leader) went back to the village with some sons "to collect food and bamboo for shelter" but came back (alone?) with soldiers and Buddhists following him. "Abdul Malik walked towards the watching Rohingya Muslims unsteadily, with blood dripping from his head. Some witnesses said they had seen one of the armed men strike the back of Abdul Malik’s head with a knife."

Later and more certainly, he was also beheaded (see below). In between, he was arrested with the others, and shows no sign of a head wound (man #6 and #2 in each of the photos below - sweat but no blood on his shirt, no other sign). How did that come to be? Where did his sons go?

Otherwise, this article comes out fairly well ... compared to the ones before. The rest of this post will address the following three important but under-reported points about this story.
  • The men were probably militants involved in attacks
  • "Witnesses" have given false stories to deny militancy
  • The killing was illegal and brutal, but it was provoked 

The men were probably militants involved in attacks

As mentioned, Reuters hear clear claims of no serious ARSA attack:

"Three Buddhist and more than a dozen Rohingya witnesses contradict (the government's) version of events. Their accounts differ from one another in some details. The Buddhists spoke of a confrontation between a small group of Rohingya men and some soldiers near the beach. But there is unanimity on a crucial point: None said the military had come under a large-scale attack in Inn Din."

"The Buddhists spoke of a confrontation between a small group of Rohingya men and some soldiers near the beach." Implicitly, the Rohingya people, who claim to have been right there on the beach, didn't mention such a thing. Why? Who's lying?

Rohingya refugees still insist the men were innocent civilians picked at random. The report agrees with others before that "The dead men were fishermen, shopkeepers, the two teenage students and an Islamic teacher." And definitely, not a one of them was also a recent or long-term recruit to ARSA. The local Islamist beard style, their fitness and fighting age? Reporter Simon Lewis says in the attached video (2:15) soldiers "picked out ten men, apparently at random." Not even because they looked kind of like fighters? Come on, look at these guys.

Of the three story versions outlined below, stories #1 and 3 are unclear on the number killed: at least 7 or so vs. 10-15. If the Reuters version is correct, the men were summoned in front of everyone, with no reason for ambiguity on how many. But if they were arrested in the field, like hiding out after escaping a rout, it might be unclear to outsiders how many had grouped together to be nabbed in one spot. They might be left guessing who among those missing wound up somewhere else or died in fighting, etc. They did seem to know from the start that the bodies were buried in or near a cemetery, but they apparently didn't get a clear body count.

Consider also how they've been listed. In December, Rohingya blogger published story version 2 that had the right number and a list of names to go with it. But there's a problem here as well - only eight identities line up with what Reuters now reports, with two others swapped out with different men.

The new list is preferable in all regards - rounded off ages, etc. Here we see they go at least as young as 17, not 20. Every age above 30 seems rounded to the nearest five even here. But two entries don't seem to match with the previous list. Was that just a pretty good guess as to who was in the group of ten, after everyone scattered at random following the clash? The bad guesses were more 25-year-old non-fighters. #7 Bangu sounds like #4 Nur Mohamed, repeated via his nickname, age rounded down to look different. Names are still incomplete. Abdul isn't a name - it would translate "servant of the." It needs an obbject. Religious leader Abdulamlik just has no last name given. Same for Abdulmajid, Abdulrahman, and both Abdulhashims. However in some cases the U __ might be their last names.

And consider what their job was supposed to be, as pious Muslims of the Rohingya community. As International Crisis Group reported in December: "ARSA initiated the attacks via a WhatsApp audio message delivered shortly after 8pm on 24 August. It instructed cell leaders to mobilise all male villagers over the age of fifteen, assemble in pre-planned locations with whatever sharp objects were available and attack designated targets." What made these guys decide to refuse that call? Unexplained. All good Rohingya were supposed to fight. But these weaklings just sat there camping with the women and babies until they were dragged away on September 1?

They do seem unusually slow here. Those claiming an attack say it took a week after that call. But by the Rohingya (and some Buddhist?) accounts, they never did attack and were never going to. Why? Obviously, because to strengthen the genocide claim, they need to be more innocent and harmless Muslims who just "watched their Buddhist neighbors dig a shallow grave," knowing they were the victims of blind hate.

"Witnesses" have given false stories to deny militancy

As I outlined in the earlier articles, there were three distinct opposition versions of the story reported between October and January, where it seemed at least two must be untrue.

V1. First Amnesty International heard in October that 5+ men, primarily if not totally, were shot randomly as they ran from their burning homes. The bodies were left behind, and "several" or all were buried individually by family in some kind of cemetery.

V2. Then as photos of bound captives emerged in December, survivors said the ten men were arrested while camping on the beach, then killed and buried in secret, presumably by their killers.

V3. AFP reported in January the men were “slaughtered” after showing up for a “meeting” the army and Buddhists had asked for, and were dumped in a single grave in the Buddhist cemetery, as we understand the locale – not a place Rohingya Muslims would be likely to bury their kin, as told to AI.

Here, it's a different version, but one that just might fuse #2 and 3 into one story, for only 2 stories total, and one re-iterated three times now. Rather than camping on the beach on their own, we hear them men were part of a big group of civilians sheltering there after their homes were burnt (burnings in the "days" following the 27th). On the 1st, Soldiers "plucked the 10 from among hundreds of men, women and children who had sought safety on a nearby beach." They "beckoned with their guns to the crowd of roughly 300 Rohingya to assemble in the paddies, Rehana Khatun, 22, the wife of Nur Mohammed, said “they pointed toward my husband and some other men to get up and come forward ... We heard they wanted the men for a meeting. The military asked the rest of us to return to the beach.”

So they were summoned for a meeting, from the beach, camping with everyone. Okay, maybe they do have the story more consistent since December, so only version 1 is clearly out. But the fact that there's an out story is a serious problem, casting boubt on later versions, even if they do stop wiggling around. If this fused version 2+3 is true, then why did several people agree on a different story before that?

Amnesty's October report: 7 alleged witnesses described killings on an unclear date "several days" after the 25th. Their witnesses "identified five family members who had been killed," and recognized an unclear number of others. It could be 10, but that's not set. "The Myanmar military appeared to target Rohingya men in particular," even though the violence was random - shooting them as they fled their burning homes. AI witnesses heard nothing of arrested people, just 5+ killed, mostly or all men, and left were they fell. One man says he left his handicapped mother behind in their house, only to have it burned down with her inside (possible accident).

Now we learn in much detail how 10 men were arrested, and then killed. They're all seen in photos bound before the act. No one reports mass shooting at random in the Reuters report. The village was empty when burned by most accounts, except one or two homes where people were still inside for some reason. One man was said to be killed for having a phone on the 28th. Hundreds of others were just left alone on the beach, and later were able to flee the area.

Amnesty cited Jamil, 52, who "said his cousin Zafor Hossain was hit by a bullet in his side as the two men attempted to run to a nearby hill."

The later-provided lists give no such victim name - neither Zafour nor Hussein appears.

Jamil "buried his cousin in a graveyard on the edge of the village, before going back to the hill." The report mentions that "several" other witnesses, of seven total, described "burying their loved ones" - perhaps in that same cemetery - after finding them where they fell. Mentions of burial like this are unusual - if soldiers kill people, usually the bodies go in a pit, they say. If they wind up in a cemetery, someone caring must have done it. So here, it's family.

But now we learn the Buddhist killers buried them in their Buddhist cemetery, not a likely place for Muslims to bury their own. They all went into one big grave.

These are TWO different stories: 5+ randomly shot, buried by family vs. 10 arrested and killed, buried by the killers. Why did AI's 7 witnesses report one of these massacres and not the other, why does everyone else do the opposite, and why are the two stories so similar? As I propose, because they've been lodging false stories based on what we or they know, and come up with new versions to fit the expanding evidence. that would mean all of the told stories are untrue. 

The killing was illegal and brutal, but it was provoked

The Reuters article mentions the alleged attack by 200 ARSA fighters on the 31st, if only to deny it. Three Buddhists they spoke to agree with the 12+ Rohingya witnesses that there was no serious attack. They disagree on other points, like if there was a minor fight near the beach, maybe after which the attackers blended in with the civilians camped there... "but there is unanimity on a crucial point: None said the military had come under a large-scale attack in Inn Din," suggesting the government reports of that were lies.

The January 10 military statement on the killings was apparently a gold-mine of details, some cited variously in different reports. UPI's report quoted the statement as saying "This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists." Here, as in most reports, the nature of that is unclear. But it's exposed in a sub-story that's mostly been ignored.

Radio Free Asia reported on the statement in more detail. Cited by UPI, this gives more background. On August 25, the day the general offensive began, the ARSA men had killed a Rakhine farmer named Maung Ni, and later broadcast messaged from their mosque loudspeakers “about slashing the throats of Myanmar soldiers and occupying the region.” 200 ARSA fighters attacked security forces on the 31st, but they were chased away except the ten they managed to capture. “Although the soldiers should have handed over the 10 men to police,” the RFA report rightly notes, they took them to the cemetery, and brought in villagers including Maung Ni’s sons. The condemned men “were ordered to get into a pit in a ravine between two hillocks. An ethnic Rakhine villager cut them with a sword and four soldiers shot them, the statement said.”

It was an ugly revenge killing. But the often-ignored flip-side to that is they had something to get revenge over - a grievance. To hear most "news" reports, there was nothing at all to provoke this, just blind hate motivating Buddhists to massacre a select few of their neighbors. And this is the story everywhere. The new Reuters report, to its credit, mentions this motive. But perhaps out of instinct, it also had to cast doubt on something it barely mentions:
On Sept. 2, the men were taken to scrubland north of the village, near a graveyard for Buddhist residents, six Buddhist villagers said. The spot is backed by a hill crested with trees. There, on their knees, the 10 were photographed again and questioned by security personnel about the disappearance of a local Buddhist farmer named Maung Ni, according to a Rakhine elder who said he witnessed the interrogation.
Reuters was not able to establish what happened to Maung Ni. According to Buddhist neighbors, the farmer went missing after leaving home early on Aug. 25 to tend his cattle. Several Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya villagers told Reuters they believed he had been killed, but they knew of no evidence connecting any of the 10 men to his disappearance. The army said in its Jan. 10 statement that “Bengali terrorists” had killed Maung Ni, but did not identify the perpetrators.
It's true there can hardly be a known link to the ten they managed to nab after an attack almost a week later - it's communal revenge. "You kill one of ours, plus whatever else, we kill ... hey, these ten of yours."

And it may not be verified, but there are credible claims Maung Ni was definitely murdered, and it was clearly by Rohingya militants, as the Reuters report dances around clarifying. Activist Rick Heizman visited the slain man's wife (or so she says, convincingly), and recorded a video interview (on Twitter, Youtube, with English subtitles). She says Maung Ni went to check on the cattle after lunch on the 25th, with a long walk through some woods involved. Since we hear ARSA never launched an attack, even on the 31st, and definitely not on this day, there should be no clear cause for worry about walking the fields. And there should be no militants preparing for an attack in the woods for anyone to stumble upon.

But his widow says the hapless farmer happened upon a group of "hostile Bengali Muslims" who surrounded him. His two adult sons had maybe worried and set out to join him even before that. She says they were just a few minutes behind until they caught up and encountered the same mob. Unable to reach or even see their father, and under threat themselves, they just ran. His wife says she ran the other way, towards the scene with two other local men. But the Rohingya men had swords and spears, and were "yelling terrible things and frightening us all to death," so they too turned back. Everyone ran to the monastery for safety as Bengalis marauded the village and stole their property. They had to cower there for days. 
His widow says Maung Ni's body was found in the woods on a later day, after the family was escorted there by soldiers to have a look. The date isn't clear, and it's not clear if "in the mud" means buried or hidden, or just left there. The manner of killing isn't specified, but from this part of the Reuters report, I'm guessing the Muslims cut off his head. Based just on a murky disappearance, the report states:
One of the gravediggers, retired soldier Soe Chay, said Maung Ni’s sons were invited by the army officer in charge of the squad to strike the first blows. The first son beheaded the Islamic teacher, Abdul Malik, according to Soe Chay. The second son hacked another of the men in the neck.

A graphic photo (included with Reuters report) show the man identified as Abdulmalik (with shirt) had his head completely severed. They chose the teacher of Islam, this religion of peace, to take the return blows to the neck. Hm. As these things go, that seems pretty appropriate. It's not clear who was hacked in the neck by the other brother before they switched mainly to soldiers shooting to finish it off. One witness told Reuters some victims were still alive and making sounds as they were callously buried. I hope this is an embellishment, but it sounds plausible, considering. 


The Reuters report notes this on the government's response:
In its Jan. 10 statement, the military said the two brothers and a third villager had “cut the Bengali terrorists” with swords and then, in the chaos, four members of the security forces had shot the captives. “Action will be taken against the villagers who participated in the case and the members of security forces who broke the Rules of Engagement under the law,” the statement said. It didn’t spell out those rules. ... Tun Aye, one of the sons of Maung Ni, has been detained on murder charges, his lawyer said on Jan. 13. Contacted by Reuters on Feb. 8, the lawyer declined to comment further. Reuters was unable to reach the other brother.

This is taken as a crack in the façade of denial over the broad record of genocidal crimes. It this what we should expect once the secrets of the Tula Toli massacre, for example, come to light? Insiders admit how they slaughtered 1,800 villagers, murdered children in front of their mothers before raping them and burning the houses they were in? No, that doesn't seem likely.

How about the Kha Maung Seik Massacre? There, ARSA still flat denies their fairly obvious responsibility for murdering 93 Hindu civilians and kidnapping 18 others on August 25, just after the ARSA offensive knocked out security. This was no execution of captured fighters, but people marched out of their homes, including women, babies, the elderly. The ARSA-types and their supporters across the globe were last spotted weakly blaming the military and Buddhists, then dropping the subject as much as possible once their best witnesses were rescued and started telling a different story, and half of the well-hidden bodies were found. (see here).

And by the way, Simon Lewis - involved in this Inn Din report - still has an unfinished lead there. He had spoken to some pretty Hindu women rescued by Muslims who swore Buddhists killed their Hindu husbands for refusing to help them kill Muslims (see his article here). You can't make this shit up - they really are making this shit up. They've got 45 bodies found in that case, refugee camp testimony, another religious group co-targeted and sure to join forces now with ARSA. One wonders why Lewis dropped that hot lead with no comment, to pursue this one instead...

Evidence of further crimes

Pressed for time, this is the part I'll lave off, at least for now. To return to, time depending: did Buddhists and the military also torch homes, loot property, etc.? Or was it just the brutal execution of captured fighters? It's important to get that right, but raising these three points seems more like "my job" that no one else would do well enough if I didn't.

Related tweets
general promotion
#Myanmar #InnDinMassacre Review of Reuters Special Report: 3 main points:
1 The men were probably militants involved in attacks
2 "Witnesses" have given false stories to deny militancy
3 The killing was illegal and brutal, but it was provoked

"Reuters was not able to establish what happened to Maung Ni" and heard there was no ARSA attack. So they found no reason for the Buddhists to attack or kill any Rohingya, they're just hate-filled racists.

I got the assessment of that Reuters piece re: #InnDinMassacre. Valuable add, gives me SOME pause (some of that put off for now). http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2018/02/inn-din-massacre-review-of-reuters.html … Any response? Note my note on your unfinished work re: #KhaMaungSeikMassacre. Don't get too distracted from that.

(Antoni Slodkowski, Reuters Myanmar Bureau Chief, co-author with Lewis, Lone and Oo)
I already showed Simon, but here's my review of your special report. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

An Admission at Inn Din: Precedent for What?

January 14, 2018
(rough, incomplete)

As I work on an article for a wider audience, I had to pause to look into this story, and then put up this article. Then it's back to work...

Limited Hangout, or just Limited Crimes?
A government cover-up of massacres in Myanmar was the arrest of two Reuters journalists and others on December 12 (DW), reportedly as they were looking into killings at Inn Din, on the southern coast of Maundaw township.

An unusual government announcement of Dec. 18 noted unidentified “people being killed and buried” in a cemetery there (Reuters). A December 19 NYT report says the journalists had obtained photos from here. "Five ethnic Rakine locals" and not Rohingya, "were arrested for supplying the photos."  What seems to be a photo of one of the photos with labels added (but unreadable) was shown Dec. 20 on Twitter by a pro-Rohingya activist (see right).

At the risk of setting a precedent, the government now admits its forces engaged in unlawful killings in Inn Din. It was not on orders, the January 10 announcement from the army chief's office says, but hot-headed soldiers and Buddhist locals on their own initiative. Upset over attacks and a recent murder of one of their own, they decided to execute 10 ARSA fighters ("Bengali terrorists") on September 2, after capturing them during a foiled attack on August 31.
"Some villagers from Inn Din village and security forces confessed they killed 10 Bengali terrorists," a translation of the Facebook post said, according to Radio Free Asia. "The decision was made to kill them at a cemetery. 
The army will take charge of those who are responsible for the killings and who broke the rules of engagement," the statement continued. "This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists.
(UPI, AFP via Frontier Myanmar, RFA - photo source)

This has been heralded as a first crack in the façade of denial, an unprecedented admission some say should lead to the government starting acknowledging the rest of their alleged crimes. But of course "should" doesn't mean "will," and people are expecting this is just limited hangout before Naypyidyaw call the massacres case closed.

But it's also a crack in the impression of a cover-up. Why admit to anything if you're guilty and intent on keeping the lid on it all? 

The government vows to punish the criminals who broke the rules of engagement with those killings, and likely will. They also might now free the journalists jailed, it seems for trying to report on what they now admit (or maybe on a different version of it?). But don't wait up for any more substantial admissions. There may be another incident or even two of this sort they'll acknowledge, but so far only this one has found bodies, photos, Rakhines apparently trying to admit to it, and a story we now hear that has a certain plausibility. Other alleged massacres are of a vastly different character, with scores or hundreds of civilians killed, with utmost cruelty and for no reasons. So far they're also lacking in credible evidence. These - Tula Toli, Maung Nu, etc. - Naypyidaw will probably continue to deny. And perhaps they would be right to do so.

Story Problems Anyway
Strangely, even as the government side admits to the killings, the opposition's story appears to be poorly-managed fiction like their others. Maybe it's just reflexive, or maybe they're just trying to hide the fact that these were militants, but alleged witnesses keep changing the story for some reason. If you think the government is holding out on the truth, the following should convince you no one is telling it like it was.

An AFP report (via Frontier Myanmar) quickly followed the government's admission of ARSA fighters killed, passing on claims the victims were civilians - "fishermen, farmers, lumberjacks and clerics". As I commented on a Frontier Myanmar tweet about this: "To do: check what (activists) say now, what they said before, compare to what gov. says, consider logic and read between the lines, etc. Most will not do these things." I wasn't sure if even I would find the time, but here we are, and it's worth yet another post. 

In the above photo (if it's authentic - likely), the men are not dressed in the black outfits associated with ARSA. That could have a few causes. Maybe the black clothing isn't mandatory, especially for recently-pressed conscripts. Maybe they had time to remove these while ditching their weapons to play civilian. And maybe they're outright civilian.

Rohingya Blogger reported Dec. 19 that 10 men were killed, not fighters but regular working guys. These are listed, with incomplete names (but not Islamist fighter names like "Abu Hamza" - but Hafiz Ullah at least sounds fishy... must be the unarmed cleric?). They're mostly aged 20-35, with the oldest being 45, so all fighting age. This says they were arrested Aug. 31 while camping (or "mushroomed") on the beach after their homes had been burned down. Where their wives and kids had gone is unexplained. Here are the given IDs:

(1) MV Abdul Malek (s/o) U Mohammed, age-35
(2) Abul Hashim (s/o) U Kamarul, age-30
(3) Abdullah (s/o) U Abul Kalam, age-20
(4) Hafiz Ullah (s/o) U Nur Mohammed, age-28
(5) Rashid (s/o) U Abdul Shukur, age-20
(6) Abdul Mojid (s/o) U Mohammed, age-45
(7) Bangu (s/o) U Amaan Ullah, age-25
(8) Dilu (s/o) U Esop, age-30
(9) Bu Tar (s/o) U Abdul Rahaman, age-45 and
(10) Rafique (s/o) U Mohammed Ramul, age-25 

An Amnesty International (AI) report from last October was an earlier source, drawing on 7 alleged witnesses. As they heard, the killings were on an unclear date "several days" after the 25th - could be August 28 or 30 or September 2. How many wasn't clear - their witnesses "identified five family members who had been killed," and recognized an unclear number of others. Something like 10 total is likely, but the number isn't set. "In general, the Myanmar military appeared to target Rohingya men in particular," but maybe not exclusively. One man says he left his handicapped mother behind in their house, only to have it burned down with her inside (possible accident). But none of the men killed was a fighter.

Now we see the photo of all 10 rounded up and bound before execution. But in this early version, the victims seemed to die from random shooting. "As people ran away, the soldiers and BGP opened fire. Jamil, a 52-year-old farmer and small trader, said his cousin Zafor Hossain was hit by a bullet in his side as the two men attempted to run to a nearby hill." (Rohingya Blogger doesn't list anyone under the name Zafor or Hossain (maybe he had an alias or nickname they used?).

Another conflict: AI heard how Jamil escaped to a hill, then came back later. Finding the body in the same spot, he "buried his cousin in a graveyard on the edge of the village, before going back to the hill." The report mentions that "several" other witnesses, of seven total, described "burying their loved ones" - perhaps in that same cemetery - after finding them where they fell.

Most stories don't feature this, and most don't wind up with an identified burial, in a cemetery no less. This feels tailored to the facts but now, as we hear it, the men were buried together by their killers, not individually by their family.

Rohingya Blogger's post from December came just as the mass grave was found, and as the photos were known. By this the men were arrested in a group and then killed, rather than shot while running. Then their bodies were put into a "grave" or "graves," with no word on who did the burying - presumably those who arrested them. They agree with the government announcement that it was done in some kind of cemetery. Somehow, everyone agrees on that point...

Now that we hear it was the soldiers and Rakhine Buddhist killers who interred the bodies in their own Buddhist place for that, suddenly AFP  (via Frontier Myanmar) hears a third version; 
Inn Din villager Wal Marjan, 30, said they were attacked by Rakhine mobs flanked by soldiers, who later "selected 10 to 15 men to attend a meeting".
They were never seen again, said Marjan, who was later told by another man that her husband and the others were slaughtered.
"He said his body was thrown into a mass grave with the other men," Marjan told AFP at a refugee camp in southeast Bangladesh, adding her husband had no connections with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
So both the 'random shooting' and the 'arrested mushrooms' stories are out. Fighting age working men (and clerics) rather than elders or town leaders, were picked for this "meeting." That would be an unusual invitation list to talk things over, yet they naively went? Their bodies were then "thrown into a mass grave," implicitly by the killers, rather than into individual graves dug by family.

This is an interesting story evolution. It doesn't quite prove, but strongly suggests, falsification that adapts to shifting perceptions of the story. It doesn't seem centrally planned, but improvised by different people with their own immediate concerns and little consideration for what's already been said. They probably figure one is keeping tabs anyway, and that would be about right.

A best guess from what everyone says: these 10 ARSA fighters, likely all last-minute pressure recruits, were arrested on the 31st after engaging in provocative if not criminal violence. They were killed by their captors in an inexcusable act that could be somewhat understandable, given the full context. The Buddhists involved buried the dead and then confessed the crime, perhaps to reporters freely even before the authorities asked.

All the supposed witnesses from the Rohingya side have just been trying to tweak this story into another example of the regime targeting innocent Muslims, when they could have just let it go at the truth. Everyone knows they had some fighters out there, why not let a few be accepted as victims of an extrajudicial execution? Are they just allergic to the truth? So they insist the men were all civilians, and come up with a few clashing back-stories to support that. In the end their propaganda fails.

And keep in mind this is the one massacre the government admits to, with a realistic story that doesn't read like an overblown myth. When we're looking at those other stories like Tula Toli and especially Maung Nu, not surprisingly, we see the same kind of shifting details but even worse - the dates of massacres and names of villages change. In those cases, we can only hope the lack of visual evidence and of found graves means there really were no 1,900 civilians killed. And to the extent civilians were killed, we should wonder if the people with the sliding stories might have something to hide, as they apparently did at Inn Din. And of course at Kha Maung Seik, and a few other places, at least...

Two smaller decried massacres of Rohingya, at Chein Kar Li and Koe Tan Kauk are near Inn Din, but I haven't studied them much yet. Amnesty International (same report linked above) explains both as featuring people who escaped up a hill after seeing someone either shot dead or left behind in a house that was burned, came down to verify the person was dead in that same place, and then fled. That's similar to Inn Din accounts, but no one mentions burial.

In both Chein Kar Li and Koe Tan Kauk, and in Inn Din, witnesses reported to Amnesty how "the soldiers who attacked their village wore dark green military uniforms with a patch on one arm that looked like a flower and star, which would fit a commonly given description of the Western Command patch. They also identified the BGP by the distinct camouflage blue uniforms they wear." It's presented as if they could only know these uniforms if they'd seen them during a massacre. [40] Buddhists were recognized, from whatever Buddhists wear when slaughtering. Not monks in this case, but some were spotted at Tula Toli, perhaps in their saffron robes. (smh)