The Associated Press reports that at least five mass graves have been found in the Myanmarese village of Gu Dar Pyin, as the UN special envoy on human rights in Myanmar says, "you can see it's a pattern" that has emerged with the Rohingya.
The UN special envoy on human rights in Myanmar said on Thursday that Myanmar's violent military operations against Rohingya Muslims bear "the hallmarks of a genocide".
It comes after the Associated Press (AP) confirmed the presence of more than five previously unreported mass graves in the Myanmarese village of Gu Dar Pyin, through multiple interviews with more than two dozen survivors in Bangladeshi refugee camps and through time-stamped cellphone videos.
Responding to a question about the AP report on Thursday that details a massacre and the mass graves, Yanghee Lee said that, while she didn't have specific details on the village, "you can see it's a pattern" that has emerged with the Rohingya.
Myanmar has cut off access to Gu Dar Pyin, so it's unclear just how many people died, but satellite images obtained by the AP from DigitalGlobe, along with videos of homes reduced to ash, reveal a village that has been wiped out.
"Some were dumped into rivers, some were buried, some were burnt with acid and turned into skeletons, some were chopped up, some were taken into the paddy fields and dumped there. It was very difficult to determine how many there were," said a survivor of the massacre Mohammad Younus.
Community leaders in the refugee camps have compiled a list of 75 of the dead so far, and villagers estimate the toll could be as high as 400, based on testimonies from relatives and the bodies they've seen in the graves and strewn about the area. A large number of the survivors carry scars from bullet wounds, including a three-year-old boy and his grandmother.
TRT World's Joseph Hayat reports.
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, not too far away from a school where more than 100 soldiers were stationed after the massacre. Villagers also saw other, smaller graves scattered around the village.
In the videos of the graves obtained by the AP, dating back to to 13 days after the killing began, bluish-green puddles of acid sludge surround corpses without heads and torsos that jut into the air. Skeletal hands seem to claw at the ground.
'Hallmarks of genocide'
Yanghee Lee told reporters in Seoul, where she is based, that she couldn't make a definitive declaration about genocide until a credible international tribunal or court had weighed the evidence, but "we are seeing signs and it is building up to that."
Her briefing described her recent visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh and other areas in the region to discuss the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar.
Lee said such reports must be investigated, "and this is why we've called for a fact-finding mission ... and access for international media to" the areas in northern Rakhine state where the Rohingya live.
Lee said that Myanmar's actions were "amounting to crimes against humanity".
"These are part of the hallmarks of a genocide," she said.
What the #Myanmar government claims to be the conduct of military or security operations is actually an established pattern of domination, aggression & violations against ethnic groups, including #Rohingya. See statement by UN expert @YangheeLeeSKKU https://t.co/5cHJ1NEqJd https://t.co/RiR9GH0et4— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 1, 2018
"I think Myanmar needs to get rid of this baggage of 'did you or did you not,' and if proven that they did, then there has to be responsibility and accountability. No stones must be left unturned because the people, the victims, the families of the victims, definitely deserve an answer," Lee said.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled their villages into Bangladesh since the Myanmar military's crackdown following August 25 attacks by Rohingya insurgents. The government of Myanmar has refused her **is this referring to Lee?** entrance to the country.
The Myanmar government regularly claims such massacres of the Rohingya never happened, and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 "terrorists" in the village of Inn Din.
However, the AP's reporting shows a systematic slaughter of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the military, with help from Buddhist neighbours—and suggests many more graves hold many more people.
The graves are the newest piece of evidence for what looks increasingly like a genocide in Myanmar's western Rakhine state against the Rohingya, a long-persecuted ethnic Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the AP report "raises the stakes for the international community to demand accountability from Myanmar".
"It's time for the EU and the US to get serious about identifying and levelling targeted sanctions against the Burmese military commanders and soldiers responsible for these rights crimes, and for the UN to lead the charge for a global arms embargo, and an end of training and engagement for the Tatmadaw," he said, using the local name for Myanmar's military.
Repeated calls to Myanmar's military communications office went unanswered Wednesday and Thursday. Htun Naing, a local security police officer in Buthidaung township, where the village is located, said he "hasn't heard of such mass graves".