Myanmar army uses fake photos of 'Muslims killing Buddhists' in book on Rohingya crisis

Several historic images taken out of context in propaganda piece released by armed forces

Tom Barnes
Friday 31 August 2018 17:20
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Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim crisis explained

Produced by Myanmar’s army, a new book on the Rohingya crisis contains numerous misrepresented photographs, including one image that incorrectly claims to be members of the Muslim minority killing Buddhists.

The 177-page Myanmar Politics and the Tatmadaw: Part I features the army’s narrative on the military crackdown which was recently described as genocide by United Nations investigators.

Much of the book’s content is sourced from the military's “True News” information unit, which since the beginning of the crisis has distributed the army’s version of events, mostly in Facebook posts.

However, an investigation by the Reuters press agency found many of the photographs contained within the publication had been completely removed from their original context.

One, which depicts a man holding a farming tool standing over two bodies, is captioned: “Bengalis killed local ethnics brutally,”.

However, the photograph was actually taken in Dhaka during Bangladesh's 1971 independence war, when hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis were killed by Pakistani troops.

The book attempts to paint Rohingya, who regard themselves as native to western Myanmar, as interlopers and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, repeatedly referring to them as “Bengalis”.

One faded black-and-white image shows a crowd of people, who appear to be on a long march with their backs bent over, apparently a depiction of Rohingya arriving in Myanmar before 1948.

“Bengalis intruded into the country after the British Colonialism occupied the lower part of Myanmar,” the caption reads.

An image of Rwandan refugees in 1996 claimed to be Rohingya immigrants by the Myanmar army

But the picture is instead a distorted version of a 1996 image of refugees fleeing genocide in Rwanda.

Another grainy photo, captioned “Bengalis entered Myanmar via the watercourse,” is actually a 2015 image of Rogingya leaving Myanmar by boat in their tens of thousands for Thailand and Malaysia.

The book is on sale at bookstores across Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon.

A member of staff at Innwa, one of the biggest bookshops in the city, said the 50 copies the store ordered had sold out, but there was no plan to order more.

“Not many people came looking for it,” added the bookseller, who declined to be named.

An image from Bangladesh's 1971 independence war claimed by the book to be of Rohingya killing Buddhists

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries amid persecution in recent years.

The UN has said it found evidence of extrajudicial killings, gang rapes and arson as the army lashed back at attacks by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents in a “grossly disproportionate” reaction.

In the introduction to the book the writer, listed as Lieutenant Colonel Kyaw Kyaw Oo, says the text was compiled using “documentary photos” with the aim of “revealing the history of Bengalis”.

U Myo Myint Maung, permanent secretary at Myanmar's ministry of information, declined to comment, saying he had not read the book.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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