The Irrawaddy

Rakhine Govt to Sue AP over Report of Mass Graves in Buthidaung

An aerial view of a burned village in Buthitaung Township in northern Rakhine State.

The Rakhine State Government plans to sue The Associated Press for falsely reporting the existence of mass graves near Gutar Pyin Village in Buthidaung Township, northern Rakhine State.

The state government is discussing with the attorney general of Rakhine State, U Kyaw Hla Tun, the possibility of a lawsuit against the news agency, according to Colonel Phone Tint, the state minister for security and border affairs.

“We have instructed the chief law officer to look at ways to sue the news agency,” Col Phone Tint said.

He said the laws under which the agency would be sued would be made known to the public soon.

At the time The Irrawaddy published the story on Monday at 6:38 PM, the AP had not replied to a request for comments. Later that evening, the wire agency replied that it stood by its reporting.

On Feb. 1, the AP reported that hundreds of bodies had been found in five mass graves near Gutar Pyin Village in Buthidaung, Rakhine State. It said the bodies had been burned with acid in an apparent attempt to destroy them.

The Union government ordered the Rakhine State government to investigate the claims.

The state government sent an investigation team led by the Buthidaung Township administrator to the site, but the team found the claims to be untrue, according to a statement released by the Union government on the evening of Feb. 2.

On Aug. 28 last year, Gutar Pyin Village was the scene of fighting between security forces and ARSA militant terrorists, one of a series of clashes in Buthidaung, Maungtaw and Yathedaung in northern Rakhine State, the statement said.

It added that during the fighting in Gutar Pyin, about 500 villagers joined a raid by ARSA militants on security forces, and that in the resulting fighting, a member of the security forces was injured and 19 militants were killed. According to the statement, the 19 bodies were properly buried and Case No. 5/2017 was filed under Section 50 (i) of the Counter-terrorism Law at Nyaung Chaung Police Station, the statement said.

The press release stated that the government was not necessarily denying the allegations and would investigate further if reliable new information comes to light. If any rights violations were found to have occurred, action would be taken against the perpetrators in line with existing laws, it said.

The Rakhine State government said it is investigating whether similar incidents took place in surrounding villages and that plans are in place to carry our further investigations when more information and evidence becomes available.

The story was updated on Tuesday morning with the AP’s response.