Muslim militants are accused of raiding villages in northern Rakhine in Myanmar on August 25, killing many people. On Sunday, mass graves were discovered in the area, lending credibility to the accusations of eyewitnesses and the local army.
Myanmar, which borders India, is dominated by Burmans. There has been a long-running resentment between the Burmans and local minority communities, including the Rohingyas, who are predominantly Muslim. The Buddhist majority sees the Muslims as trespassers from Bangladesh, and want them to leave.
Northern Rakhine, where the attacks took place, is dominated by Muslims. A number of Buddhists and Hindus live in the area as well, but they’re a minority in the region. Although the communities once spoke the same language and lived peacefully together, a 1982 law, which stripped the Rohingyas of citizenship, has led to intense feuding.
Last month, a government-backed commission urged “all communities to move beyond entrenched historical narratives.” The reported attack occurred after the statement was published.
On Aug. 25, Hindu citizens say Muslims massacred their families and friends, burning their homes and kidnapping women for marriage. According to witnesses, the attack left many Hindus displaced or dead, including the family of 8-year-old Muni, who is now one of the few survivors in her Hindu family.
Although a military presence in the area makes accounts from witnesses hard to verify, on Sunday, two mass graves were uncovered, revealing 28 badly-decomposed bodies of Hindu men, women and children, according to reports.
The discovery is evidence, the local army says, of a massacre by Rohingya Muslim militants. They say Muslims militants raided police posts as well.
“The security troops continue searching for remaining Hindu people around the places of the pits,” said a statement posted on army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page.
Hundreds of traumatized Hindus are now being housed at an unused football stadium in Sittwe, according to reports, sleeping on mats in overcrowded conditions. They have a list of 102 missing people from two villages.
Relatives and community leaders fear the missing villagers may be dead, and some say they won’t go back as long as Rohingya Muslims are in the area. Reportedly, they say they can no longer live alongside them again.
One witness, Khin Saw Nyo, said nearby Rohingya villagers suddenly turned on her community, forcing them to flee to the mountains. Nyo recalled with certainty what happened, reportedly saying: “We will die if we go back. They warned us to eat well. They said the next time, we will not escape.”
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