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Reuters journalists held over ‘probe into Rohingya killings’

| Updated: February 10, 2018 11:24:01


Kyaw Soe Oo (centre left) and Wa Lone (centre right) were arrested in December. - EPA Kyaw Soe Oo (centre left) and Wa Lone (centre right) were arrested in December. - EPA

Reuters has revealed details of an investigation into a mass execution of Rohingyas by soldiers and villagers, which it says lies behind the arrest of two of its journalists in Myanmar.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Seo Oo are awaiting trial, charged with violating the country's Official Secrets Act, reports BBC.

The news agency claims they uncovered evidence the 10 Rohingyas were killed unlawfully in Rakhine state last year.

It hopes this will demonstrate the pair were acting in the public interest.

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J Adler said: "When Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were first arrested, our primary focus was on their safety. Once we understood their legal situation, we, in consultation with Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and their relatives, decided that it was our responsibility to publish an account of what happened in the village of Inn Din.

"We published this ground-breaking investigation because it is in the global public interest."

The BBC has been unable to independently verify all the details of the alleged killings - access to the area is restricted - but it comes in the wake of a series of allegations of massacres in Rakhine last year based on eyewitness testimony.

The crisis in mainly Buddhist Myanmar's north-western Rakhine state hit global headlines late last year when hundreds of thousands of Muslims fled a deadly military crackdown.

The military says it is fighting Rohingya militants in Rakhine, but rights groups say thousands of civilians have been killed.

What happened to the journalists?

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are two Burmese journalists credited with some powerful reporting. They were arrested on 12 December after meeting police and receiving documents from them.

Authorities say they were "arrested for possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine State and security forces" and that the information had been "illegally acquired with the intention to share it with foreign media".

But ever since their arrest there has been speculation that the men were working on a highly sensitive investigation.

Reuters have now decided to publish details to support their claim the men were working on a story with clear global public interest.

What do we know about the investigation?

It centres around an episode in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine on 2 September last year.

Reuters says its two journalists had been collecting evidence of the execution of 10 men based on interviews with Buddhist villagers, security personnel and photographs. The agency says it has pieced together what happened to them.

According to Reuters, a group of Rohingya men seeking safety on a beach were singled out as their village was raided.

Buddhist men from the village were then ordered to dig a grave and then the 10 men were killed, at least two hacked to death by the Buddhist villagers with the rest shot by the army.

The agency claims this is the first time soldiers have been implicated with photographic evidence and by fellow security personnel. They also claim to have confessions from the Buddhist villagers.

After the arrest of the two journalists the Burmese military carried out their own investigation into the incident. The investigation corroborated what the two journalists had found - that there had been an execution.

However, the military described the 10 men as "Bengali terrorists" and said that they were executed because they could not be transported due to attacks on police stations by Rohingya militants.

Reuters claim the two journalists found no evidence the 10 men were connected with terrorism - with several witnesses saying the men had been picked out of a crowd.

Reuters says the two journalists spoke to a number of witnesses in the village of Inn Din, police officers and relatives of the men killed- who are now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. One man admitted to the murder of a Rohingya Muslim, the news agency says.

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