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AP Reporter Details Massacre, Mass Graves Of Myanmar Rohingya

Feb 1, 2018
Originally published on February 1, 2018 8:13 am
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Some news now out of Myanmar, where several mass graves have been discovered in a Rohingya village. This village was the site of a massacre by soldiers back in August, and we know about these graves because a survivor captured video on his cellphone. The man then wrapped his memory card in plastic, tied it to his thigh and fled over the border to Bangladesh. There, he shared this footage with a reporter from The Associated Press. That reporter's name is Foster Klug, and he joins us now on the line from Seoul.

Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

FOSTER KLUG: Good morning. Hello.

MARTIN: It is remarkable that this Rohingya man was able to get this video to you. What does it show?

KLUG: It shows several things. There's the village burning. There is him returning to see the homes that have been burnt to the ground. And there are also images of bodies half-buried in mass graves. These bodies are parts of bodies, and there's often some - what appears to be acid, a blue-green sludge that surrounds them from where the people we talked to said soldiers had tried to burn the faces from the people that they had killed so they couldn't be identified.

MARTIN: Oh, my. I understand you have spoken with other Rohingya who fled that exact village. What did you learn from them?

KLUG: Yeah. We talked to about 30 people from that village, and they all told a very uniform story about the day, August 27, when about 200 soldiers came into the village, began shooting, stabbing, burning, throwing people into fires. When they were done, they dug graves. And we were told by them that they dug up at least five big graves that pretty much everyone agreed on and threw these bodies into. And then other people told us that they saw other, smaller graves with two, three, five, seven bodies all across the village.

MARTIN: Is the military in Myanmar saying anything about this video?

KLUG: Well, we got one person in a local office in the township where this village was to say that he knew nothing about any such mass graves. We've repeatedly called, yesterday and today, the communications office for the government - sorry - for the military, and they have not answered our calls yet.

MARTIN: I mean, this has happened before where human rights groups, for example, have been able to secure satellite images of these villages that have been burned to the ground and a video like the one that you have now been able to access. Is there any hope that this evidence will change the regime's behavior or mobilize the international community in any way?

KLUG: It's a good question. I mean, there is sort of a pervasive hopelessness in the camps among the people we talked to about there being change, about them being able to go back to the villages that were burned to the ground. And if they did go back, there's deep skepticism about being able to go back safely. So I don't know. They don't seem very hopeful that anything's going to happen. I will say that having video in addition to, you know, the dozens of interviews we did does sort of stand up against, you know, claims by the government or the military that this is fake, that this is the imaginings of these people.

MARTIN: Foster Klug, reporter with The Associated Press. Thanks for your time and for your coverage of this important story.

KLUG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.