February 09, 2017

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Muslim villagers refute claims of rape and murder by British newspaper

Members of the Rakhine State Investigation Commission talk to villagers at Gwazon Village in Maungtaw Township. Photo:  MNA
Members of the Rakhine State Investigation Commission talk to villagers at Gwazon Village in Maungtaw Township. Photo: MNA

Residents of the village of Kyetyoepyin in Maungtaw, the site of alleged rapes and killings of Muslim children as reported by the British newspaper The Guardian, said yesterday under questioning from the Rakhine State Investigation Commission that the claimed atrocities did not happen.
The commission, led by its chairman Vice President U Myint Swe, said the denial by villagers of the human rights abuses were discovered during their continuing tour of villages in the Maungtaw area in Rakhine State yesterday to conduct transparent investigations into the 9 October and 12-13 November attacks on border police outposts.
“Commission members conducted field trips yesterday to meet village elders, women, Muslim youth and children. All were questioned in detail on whether the reports of alleged rapes and the killing of Muslim children in the village of Kyetyoepyin in Maungtaw that had been reported in the UK newspaper The Guardian were true. All who were questioned and told of the allegations in The Guardian newspaper said the report was not valid and the alleged cases had not taken place in their village”, the commission said in a statement obtained by the Myanmar News Agency.
The names of the villagers were not released by the commission.
The denials by villagers about the alleged rapes and killings of Muslim children came about during questioning by teams of commission members led by members U Aung Kyi and Dr Daw Thet Thet Zin about the 12 October incident in which assailants attacked government troops outside their village. The incident resulted in the death of 10 attackers, an outbreak of fire in the village and the seizure of a single-barreled gun.
The teams made up of commission members spoke to Muslim villagers, women and children to ask if there had taken place any cases of rape and/or prosecution of children. The locals replied that they only heard of such cases in the form of rumours. They said they did not know or see anything of the events described, according to the commission.
In Saturday’s online and print editions of The Guardian, a Muslim woman named Noor Ayesha is profiled and quoted as saying mass atrocities occurred in mid-October in her village. Noor Ayesha claims a group of 20 soldiers came to her home in Kyetyoepyin in mid-October, killed her husband and seven of her children, raped her and burned her home down. Noor Ayesha told The Guardian that two of her daughters were raped by soldiers before they were killed.
Noor Ayesha is now in Bangladesh, The Guardian reports.
The Myanmar government has consistently denied the allegations.
A commission member said yesterday that media access to northern Rakhine has been restricted for security reasons but will be lifted in the future.
“Right now, only official statements can be released due to the current situation”, said Dr Aung Tun Thet. “After that, other media, including international media, will be allowed”.
Dr Aung Tun Thet said that, in the meantime, the public should be wary of social and online media.
“We can easily see how rumours can spread, how biased information can be disseminated on social and on-line media”, he said.
The vice president and the rest of the commission also visited the Muslim-majority village of Gwazon, where they conducted interrogations concerning the 12 November afternoon event during which a commanding officer was killed as his Tatmadaw column was attacked by about 500 assailants using small arms, swords, spears and harpoons.
Later, the commission visited the villages of Dargyizar, Pwintbyuchaung and Nganchaung. Yesterday evening, the commission was briefed on the measures taken by the Rakhine State cabinet, and the vice president discussed in detail matters relating to the rule of law and effective delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid.—GNLM

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