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Sunday, February 11, 2018

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
By WA LONE, KYAW SOE OO, SIMON LEWIS and ANTONI SLODKOWSKI Filed Feb. 8, 2018, 10 p.m. GMT
https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-rakhine-events/

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. 

Conclusion

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 fa├žade 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
"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.

@Simondlewis
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. 

1 comment:

  1. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/examining-inn-din-village-massacre-debacle.html
    16 Feb.
    U Zaw Htay, spokesman of the President Office, told The Myanmar Times that the Tatmadaw took action against 16 people, including seven soldiers, three police and six residents of Inn Din village.
    “The action was based on the investigation of the Tatmadaw’s court-martial,” he said.
    Before the Reuters report was released, three residents of northern Inn Din village, identified as teacher Ko Thein Phyi, Ko Aye Tun and Tun Tun Naing had been arrested on suspicion of providing information to Reuters.
    Ko Aye Tun and Tun Tun Naing are brothers whose father was killed by suspected terrorists on August 28.
    “They do not have any connection and nobody cares much about them,” said Khaing Mrat Kyaw, chief editor of the Rakhine newspaper Narinijara Journal.
    “Some journalists are fighting for the release of the two (Reuters journalists) but I would like to ask who will help these three people,” he said.

    Huh... taken for innocent leakers of info on the government's massacre, but "Tun Aye, one of the sons of Maung Ni, has been detained on murder charges," being one of the killers, and his brother another of them. The names come through differently, but it seems this all refers to the same two brothers. Taken in for murder, not for revealing the truth. So this isn't part of their cover up but rather part of their taking responsibility, like ARSA types refuse to do at every turn.

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