17 more bodies found in mass graves in Rakhine

People displaced by violence walk in the banks of Mayu river with their belongings while moving to another village, in Buthidaung in the north of Rakhine state, Myanmar, on Sept 13, 2017.
People displaced by violence walk in the banks of Mayu river with their belongings while moving to another village, in Buthidaung in the north of Rakhine state, Myanmar, on Sept 13, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON • Searchers yesterday found 17 more bodies in mass graves in Myanmar's Rakhine state, the government said, a day after the bodies of 28 Hindu villagers were exhumed in what the army says is evidence of a massacre by Muslim Rohingya militants.

Northern Rakhine has been ravaged by communal violence since Rohingya insurgents staged deadly raids on police posts on Aug 25, unleashing an army crackdown that has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The vast majority - more than 430,000 - are Rohingya Muslims who have fled across the border to Bangladesh from a military campaign that the United Nations says likely amounts to ethnic cleansing.

But tens of thousands of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, and the region's small population of Hindus, have also bolted from their homes, saying they were attacked by Rohingya militants.

On Sunday, the army said it had discovered two mud pits filled with 28 corpses - mostly Hindu women and children - outside the village of Ye Baw Kyaw in northern Rakhine. The military blamed the killings on Rohingya "extremist terrorists".

Seventeen more bodies were found yesterday, said government spokesman Zaw Htay.

Hindu leader Ni Maul, who joined the search alongside soldiers and police, said the new corpses were of Hindu men aged between 30 and 50 and buried in two pits near the other grave sites. "We are still searching together with soldiers and police as we believe more than 100 people were killed at that time," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Hindu leader Ni Maul said the new corpses were of Hindu men aged between 30 and 50 and buried in two pits near the other grave sites.

Displaced Hindus from that area, known as Kha Maung Seik, have told AFP that Rohingya fighters stormed into their communities on Aug 25, killing many and taking others into the forest.

With the government blocking access to the conflict zone, it is difficult to verify the range of accusations that have intensified ethnic hatred in Rakhine.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline '17 more bodies found in mass graves in Rakhine'. Print Edition | Subscribe