Sat, Feb 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Reporters held for probe of massacre, Reuters says

CLASSIFIED:Soldiers and villagers executed 10 Rohingya men in a village before dumping their bodies into a mass grave, said the report, which is supported with photographs

AFP, BANGKOK

Human bones are uncovered in a shallow grave in Inn Din, Myanmar, on Oct. 26, last year.

Photo: Reuters

Two Reuters journalists detained for two months by Burmese authorities were arrested over their investigation of a massacre of 10 Rohingya men, the news agency said in a report that detailed the grisly killings.

It is the first time Reuters has publicly confirmed what Burmese nationals Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were working on when they were arrested on Dec. 12 last year on the outskirts of Yangon.

The pair are now facing up to 14 years in prison on charges of possessing classified documents in violation of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Their plight has sparked global alarm over withering media freedoms in Myanmar and government efforts to curb reporting in Rakhine State — a crisis-hit region where troops are accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled the area since August last year, carrying stories of atrocities at the hands of troops and vigilante groups in the Buddhist-majority country.

Burmese authorities deny the allegations, but have virtually cut off northern Rakhine, barring independent media from accessing the conflict-hit areas.

On Thursday, Reuters published a report describing how Myanmar troops and Buddhist villagers executed 10 Rohingya men in Rakhine’s Inn Dinn village on Sept. 2, last year before dumping their bodies into a mass grave.

“The Reuters investigation of the Inn Din massacre was what prompted Myanmar police authorities to arrest two of the news agency’s reporters,” the report said.

The account was based on testimony from Buddhist villagers, security officers and relatives of the slain men.

It included graphic photographs of the victims, hands bound kneeling on the floor before the killing — and of their bodies in a pit after.

A month after the journalists’ arrests, the Burmese army issued a rare statement admitting that security forces took part in extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya “terrorists” in Inn Din village.

The Reuters report said witnesses denied there had been any major attack from Rohingya militants before the alleged massacre.

A Burmese government spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

However, Myanmar vehemently denies systematic abuses by its security officers, despite a mounting volume of evidence pointing to atrocities.

Judges have denied bail to the two reporters during a pre-trial hearing period, despite calls for their release from human rights groups and diplomats around the globe.

The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday next week.

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