Govt to crack down on conspiracy behind Maungdaw ‘burning’ pictures

News Team
Bengalis set fires to their own houses.

According to Zaw Htay, Director-General of the State Counselor’s Office, investigations are being conducted over the controversial “burning” photos that are spreading online.

He announced on social media Facebook that, “We are probing the photos that allegedly show self-burning of houses in Maungdaw. Myanmar is under attack from fake news but it’s crucial not to fight lies with lies but with the truth. We are trying to prove to the world what exactly are the lies and the framing. The truth will prevail. It will take time but we will find and arrest those involved in the alleged burning and if found to be an orchestrated event, everyone involved will be uncovered and taken action against. The law will apply equally to whoever is responsible for this.”

Zaw Htay claimed that the police are now interrogating a Hindu man allegedly shown to be the arsonist in the photos.

The photos appeared on the internet when there is mass confusion and chaos over information, especially with international media organizations accusing Security Forces and the military of “ethnic cleansing” and genocide”, pertaining to be from the conflicted Maungdaw Region in Rakhine State.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a statement claiming that Muslim villages are being burnt down in Rakhine while also depicting a satellite picture of Khali Village in Yathedaung Township with around 700 homes that were on fire.

Security Forces as well as natives claimed that Bengali extremists put forward women and young children at the forefront as deterrence. Official statements released by the government had tallied up to a total of 60 villages and 6845 homes that had been destroyed by the fighting so far.

They also claimed that more and more evidences of Bengali extremists, calling themselves the ‘Rohingya’, planning more terror activities.

State Counselor Aung San SuuKyi had a conversation with Turkey’s President Erdogan on September 5 over the phone, in which they discussed the issue of Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister sharing false information and how it was just the mere “Tip of a huge iceberg of Misinformation”. They discussed that false information is being spread by terror organizations for the purpose of sowing dissent between each other.

As to who exactly did the photos that went viral on September 6 came from, the Eleven Media Group had traced it back to a certain Maung Maung Tun that hails from Maungdaw City.

He claimed that he took the photos that Bengalis allegedly burning their own homes on September 3 at ward 4, of which according to him was home to over one hundred Bengali houses. He added that the fire razed over 20 of such houses.

“I came when I saw the fires. I had my phone out ever since I left my home. When I saw them trying to start a fire, I took pictures. I took several pictures and then I left. They also ran away later. It was on September 3 around 230pm in the afternoon. There have been such fires and patterns before. They will burn their own homes down because then it will spread to nearby Rakhine ethnic houses. They’ve been doing it since ages past but now we have more access to things like mobile phones. I passed the photos along to journalists,” said Maung Maung Tun.

He added that he do not remember how the arsonists looked like. “They look very similar to each other. I don’t know whether it was truly their home or not. I just took pictures because they were trying to start a fire. They’d probably attack me if they noticed me. I was around 100 yards away.”

Neighbors of the home in question say that the home belongs to Adullah and that while Adullah’s wife and family members were present in the pictures, the husband was not on scene.

“We live in the same neighborhood in ward 4. I’ve seen the pictures and it belongs to Adullah. I don’t know his family members well but we’ve spoken before. The people in the pictures are his family members including his wife. I don’t know her name. We have to run away from our own home because we heard gunfire coming from them towards us. I agree that they burnt down their own home because the woman (in the picture) is the owner’s wife,” said an anonymous neighbor.

Ever since the pictures went viral on social media, there have been much criticism and skepticism as to the authenticity of the pictures.

Many claimed that there were inconsistencies in the pictures such as the wearing of sacred religious headwear over dirty, bandana wrapped heads. And that the women in the pictures that seems to be wearing Hijabs actually seem to be wearing tablecloths as well as wearing inappropriate, short-sleeved clothing different from those that wears them regularly.

There also were many that pointed out the illogical nature of the supposed “burning” as they could have easily started the fire from within their home with plenty of fuel without the fear of being exposed and that there seems to be no items that belongs to them that had been moved away to save it from the fire.

Several also argued that one person that appeared in the photos was the same exact person that looked extremely similar to a Hindu man named Rahul that had been photographed before in a refugee camp.

EMG tracked Rahula down and questioned him but he claimed he had nothing to do with the burnings as well as that his name was Dukiya (possibly inaccurate).

However, EMG had indeed noticed the similarities between the man shown in the pictures and “Rahula” aka “Dukiya” such as the black colored watch and the red lighter that belonged to him.

The EMG also learned from different sources that there indeed was a Hindu man involved in the burnings and that other men pictured in the photos were in fact the home owner Adullah himself and Bengali helpers under his employ.

So far, no official confirmation over this matter has been released by the government except for that investigations are being conducted over this controversy.

In 2012, communal violence erupted with mobs of Bengalis living in Buthidaung and Maungdaw regions attacked other villages. This led to a curfew being issue under Section 144 of extant laws.

On June 8, 2012, Bengalis numbering by the thousands threw stones at Myoma Pariyati Sarthintaik and a motel called Ya Nant Thit located in Maungdaw City. This also led to an outbreak of violence with mobs going around Maungdaw in the evening and destroying houses, shops, motels in the surrounding regions of which in some cases, people were attacked and murdered.

On the same day, Tha Yay Ka Mone Village located at Gaw Du Thar Ya Village Tract located 12 miles away from the city, was pillaged and razed down.

 Translated by Kywe Wa Dana Tun