Source aa., 07 February 2014
Anadolu Agency (AA) has heard testimonies from eyewitnesses to a massacre that allegedly occurred last month in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan, in Myanmar's Rakhine State.
The claims made by the interviewees, whose identities cannot be revealed for their own safety, appear to implicate the Myanmar authorities in a cover-up of mass killings; allegations that, if verified, may hasten calls for an international inquiry into the incident.
Last month a group of local Buddhists, backed by police, rampaged through the village killing at least 40 people, according to a United Nations statement and human rights organisations.
A radically different version of events has been put forward by the Myanmar government, who deny that any Rohingya Muslims were killed and insist that the only victim was an ethnically Rakhine policeman.
AA has spoken with several eyewitnesses whose accounts may help to shed light on what actually took place last month. The area where the massacre purportedly occurred is off limits to international journalists, and only those with special permission can access it.
According to AA sources, the violence was precipitated by the discovery of the dead bodies of eight Rohingya Muslims that had gone missing attempting to flee the country; it was known locally that they had been detained by a Rakhine village administrator.
A worker saw the dead bodies in the garden of the village administrator and returned to his village, Du Chee Yar Tan, to raise the alarm.
One villager told AA that on the very same night, on the 13 January, the police came to the village and began to search some of the properties.
The commotion caused by the police searching the homes made some Rohingya villagers believe it was burglars and they came out of their homes to challenge them, one villager told us.
The police left the village because of the opposition they faced.
Sources allege that the police returned at 2:00am with a mob of 400 Buddhist Rakhines.
"As soon as they entered the village they began firing. Seven people were shot straight away, everybody ran away," said one witness. "It was like it was raining bullets," he added.
Villagers also claim that their relatives were arrested and they still do not know about their whereabouts.
People from neighboring villagers claim that they saw trucks laden with Rohingya prisoners being driven away. These putative detainees are still missing.
In total, sources claim five police trucks full of people left the village and only one truck returned.
Many of the Rohingya managed to escape to neighboring villages or hid in other locations; some women returned to the village the next day.
"We say shallow graves had freshly been dug. We could smell the stench of decomposing bodies and there were flies everywhere," one woman told AA.
The women went back to a neighboring village upon seeing the shallow graves. However, they were asked to return to Du Chee Yar Tan by authorities preceding an EU delegation visit. When they returned they claim the bodies had been removed.
Villagers also claim that the police were the ones that started the fire on 28 January. They said that they saw the police pouring petrol on the roofs of the houses.
"They came on motorbikes. They first knocked some doors and when no one opened I saw them pour petrol on the roofs," claimed a villager.
This account was referenced by Myanmar Muslim MP Shwe Maung in an interview with the Democratic Voice of Burma (Myanmar), where he accused the authorities of starting the fire.
According to the MP he received a letter describing his interview as, "defaming the state and Myanmar Police Force," along with, "instigating conflicts".
AA has exclusive photographs from the village that show the destruction of homes, passed to us by local villagers.
After the EU delegation left the village the women were told to leave Du Chee Yar Tan because there would be an 'investigation'.
One village member told AA that even as the EU delegation was visiting the village the police were hiding a body that had turned up in a nearby creek.
Several accounts heard by an AA correspondent also point to some female prisoners being held in the nearby Rakhine villages of Kau Chaung and Mayrawadi.
The Rohingya Muslıms, who the UN say are among the most oppressed peoples in the world, reside mainly in the Western Myanmar state of Rakhine.
Attacks against the minority in 2012 involved, according to Human Rights Watch, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity perpetrated with the aid of state forces.
The Myanmar government continue to accuse media organisations of fabricating news and deny that any sort of massacre took place.