Refugee testimonies contradict Burmese government version of the August 25 “terrorist attacks”
Since the start of the ongoing large-scale “clearance” operation against the Rohingya population by Burmese security forces, the Burmese government’s Information Committee and state media have consistently reported that the operation is a response to over 30 coordinated “extremist terrorist” attacks against police stations and outposts in northern Rakhine State on August 25, 2017.
The government version of these attacks, allegedly timed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) to undermine the August 24 release of the final Kofi Annan Commission report,has been accepted unquestioningly by Burmese and international media. Foreign embassies have condemned the attacks and expressed sympathy with the Burmese government for losses sustained. Analysts have also been quick to conclude that the scale of the ARSA attacks, across the length of Maungdaw township, as well as in Rathedaung and Buthidaung, is evidence of support from international Islamic terrorist groups.
However,interviews by Kaladan Press with new refugee arrivals in Bangladesh throw into serious doubt the government’s version of events. Their testimony provides evidene that the military clearance operation was carefully pre-planned, and that many, if not all, of the ARSA attacks may simply have been fabricated as a pretext for the assault.
Refugees described a state of extreme security lockdown in northern Rakhine prior to August 25, with thousands of Burmese troops deployed to reinforce Border Guard police posts,each already guarded by up to a hundred armed, combat-ready police personnel. Naval vessels were also brought in along the coast, with troops patrolling the shore.
The security forces’ immediate, coordinated response on August 25 in attacking and destroying Rohingya villages in a similar pattern throughout the length of northern Rakhine, suggests stronly that the operation was planned in advance and authorized at the highest levels. Even villages where no alleged ARSA attacks took place were invaded and razed by security forces early on August 25.