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By Kaladan Press Network (KPN), October 2017
The Report is Refugee testimonies contradict Burmese government version of the August 25 “terrorist attacks”
Since the start of the ongoing large-scale “clearance” operation against the Rohingya population by Burmese security forces, the Burmese government’s Information Committee and state media have consistently reported that the operation is a response to over 30 coordinated “extremist terrorist” attacks against police stations and outposts in northern Rakhine State on August 25, 2017.
The government version of these attacks, allegedly timed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) to undermine the August 24 release of the final Kofi Annan Commission report, has been accepted unquestioningly by Burmese and international media. Foreign embassies have condemned the attacks and expressed sympathy with the Burmese government for losses sustained. Analysts have also been quick to conclude that the scale of the ARSA attacks, across the length of Maungdaw township, as well as in Rathedaung and Buthidaung, is evidence of support from international Islamic terrorist groups.
However,interviews by Kaladan Press with new refugee arrivals in Bangladesh throw into serious doubt the government’s version of events. Their testimony provides evidene that the military clearance operation was carefully pre-planned, and that many, if not all, of the ARSA attacks may simply have been fabricated as a pretext for the assault.
Refugees described a state of extreme security lockdown in northern Rakhine prior to August 25, with thousands of Burmese troops deployed to reinforce Border Guard police posts,each already guarded by up to a hundred armed, combat-ready police personnel. Naval vessels were also brought in along the coast, with troops patrolling the shore.
The security forces’ immediate, coordinated response on August 25 in attacking and destroying Rohingya villages in a similar pattern throughout the length of northern Rakhine, suggests stronly that the operation was planned in advance and authorized at the highest levels. Even villages where no alleged ARSA attacks took place were invaded and razed by security forces early on August 25.
All refugees testified there was absolutely no attempt to identify “terrorists” during the clearance operations.Heavy weapons were fired at villages, including from navy ships off the Rathedaung coast. Civilians were shot at indiscriminately,elderly and children slaughtered, women raped, and villages deliberately emptied and burned down.
Kaladan Press interviewed refugees from fifteen locations alegedly attacked by ARSA,and none had seen any sign of ARSA militants carrying out attacks. Most said they had simply heard gunfire from the direction of police posts early in the morning of August 25, and then security forces began indiscriminately attacking their communities. Some had heard no sound at all from the police posts allegedly attacked.
Refugees were incredulous that groups of militants could have approached any of the police posts supposedly attacked, given the level of military security, and the existing severe restrictions on Rohingya movements at the village level. Refugees from Ale Than Kyaw, Udaung and Myint Lut, south of Maungdaw – where thousands of ARSA militants are alleged to have attacked police posts – said this was impossible, given the hundreds of troops on security alert around their villages, and the proximity of the large new Udaung military base at the foot of the Mayu mountain range, housing over 1,000 troops.
The testimony of over 60 new refugee arrivals has been compiled in this analysis paper, laying out evidence that challenges the Burmese government’s version of the events of August 25 and their convenient scaremongering of ARSA as a dangerous terrorist threat. With the entire brutal clearance operation predicated upon the alleged ARSA attacks, it is time to start asking questions about what really happened on August 25.
The reports that ARSA attacked 30 “police posts” on August 25 give the misleading impression that ARSA targeted poorly defended public security outposts. In fact, these were posts of the Border Guard Police (BGP), a military-trained force comprising thousands of armed, combat-ready personnel (who wear blue uniforms, usually camouflaged, distinct from the plain green uniforms of the Burma Army). The posts allegedly attacked included larger well-fortified BGP police stations, manned by up to 100 BGP members, as well as smaller, but also well-defended, BGP outposts.##