The two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, detained in Myanmar since December for investigating a massacre, appeared in court again this month.
They were arrested for working to disprove the Burmese government’s denials that the exodus of 690,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh results from a policy of ethnic cleansing. The no longer saintly Aung Sung Suu Kyi has repeatedly portrayed it as an unintended consequence of “violence on both sides”. She will not say the word “Rohingya”, and likes to imply that many violent groups are equally culpable.
Ethnic cleansing is the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic group from an area by another. You need evidence and detail to prove intent in such crimes. Wa Lone and Kway Soe Oo found it, exposing Suu Kyi’s account for the sham that it is, albeit with somewhat surprising help.
Last September at Inn Din, a village 4km from an earlier Rohingya militant attack, ten innocent men – fishermen, shopkeepers, two teenagers and an Islamic teacher – were randomly selected from a crowd of evicted Rohingya and executed. Multiple interviews with participating Buddhist villagers, soldiers and policemen agree that the 11th infantry of the army’s 33rd Light Infantry Division and the paramilitary 8th Security Police Battalion (under Thant Zin Oo) organised the villagers into torching Rohingya homes, then led the executions. The police told Reuters that the order came “down the command chain”.
Soe Chay, 55, a retired soldier, describes the men being made to kneel beside an open grave. Another Buddhist villager, Tun Aye, and his brother were invited by the officer in charge to strike first. Tun beheaded the teacher, Abdul Malik, and his brother tried to behead another man, mutilating him horribly. The soldiers then opened fire on the rest. Some were still alive when they were buried.
The military claim the men were militants shot because they were too dangerous to be moved, and that when the brothers initiated the massacre, police and soldiers “accidentally” shot all ten “in the chaos”. Nobody supports this account. Two photos taken by villagers show the ten men kneeling. Another shows them lying mutilated in the shallow grave. Two men standing over them were identified by Reuters from their Facebook profiles as Aung Min and Moe Yan Naing, both of the 8th Security Police Battalion.
Moe was arrested in December. In early May he said in court that the documents that led to the journalists’ arrest were deliberately fed to the journalists by the police to entrap them, on orders of Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay suggests that these “many different allegations” will make verifying the truth difficult. Yet in trying to entrap the journalists, the police appear to have pointed a giant finger of blame where it’s due, and a simple internet search now does the rest. With the cat out of the bag, charging journalists who were set up to tell the truth seems a particularly pointless act of spite. It would almost be entertaining to see the Myanmar authorities shooting themselves so effectively in the foot, if only they hadn’t shot so many others in the head first.
headline photo Sky news