The bodies of three Muslim villagers missing in Myanmar’s violence-ridden Maungdaw township were found Saturday in a case authorities are investigating as a murder, the State Counselor’s Office said Monday.
The three men were identified as Mahmud Shawfee, 30, Sunta Ahmed, 70, and Mahmud Supai, 22, after their bodies were discovered in shallow graves about 500 meters west of Padakah village following an anonymous phone call to local police, the statement said.
Their bodies, which bear the marks of violent injuries, have been sent to a local hospital for examination, while police investigate the murder case, it said.
Last month, the bodies of three other murdered local Muslim men who worked closely with local administrative officials in restive northern Rakhine state were discovered in Maungdaw, according to BenarNews sister entity Radio Free Asia.
The men were said to have collaborated with authorities as they continue to try to round up militants who raided three border guard stations in northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships on Oct. 9 and killed nine officers.
The government has blamed the October attacks and subsequent violence in the area on Rohingya insurgents who received training and financial support from Islamists abroad.
A security sweep of northern Rakhine by the Myanmar military and border police has forced more than 65,000 Rohingya villagers to flee the area and cross the border into Bangladesh.
Some Rohingya have alleged that the security forces indiscriminately killed civilians, tortured villagers, raped women and girls, and burned down houses, though the Myanmar government and military have denied the charges.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s foreign affairs ministry said on Monday it cannot confirm reports that 152 people from the country had been arrested by Bangladesh police for illegal entry, as reported by Bangladesh media.
“We need to carefully check this story because a lot of people have been arrested in Bangladesh as ‘Myanmar nationals’... especially those going to that country,” said ministry director Kyaw Zeya.
“At present, we haven’t heard anything from our embassy there,” he said. “If we get a detailed report, we’ll carry out inquiries and let you know.”
The Bangladesh media also said that 13 of those coming from Myanmar had escaped, with the rest being sent to the Myanmar embassy.
‘Time and space’ to resolve crisis
The international community has continued to put pressure on Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis, with concern being expressed by other countries, especially by Muslim-majority nations.
Rear Admiral Myint New, Myanmar’s deputy defense chief, asked other countries on Monday for more “time and space” for Myanmar to resolve the crisis amid concerns that the Islamic State terrorist group could exploit it as it seeks a base in Southeast Asia, Agence France-Presse reported.
He told a told a security forum in Singapore that the Myanmar government was aware of the growing concern about widespread reports on the situation in Rakhine state, and was committed to addressing the issue and punishing wrongdoers, the report said.
Myint New was responding to comments by Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at a regional defense forum, who warned that a failure to address the situation in Rakhine could be exploited by Islamic terrorists with the “potential to cause death and destruction well beyond the borders of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” the report said.
Myanmar took Malaysia to task on Saturday for organizing a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a 57-member state group whose mission is to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world, on Jan. 19 to address the Rohingya crisis, Reuters reported.
During the meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Myanmar to end reported violence and discrimination against the stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, where security forces have allegedly carried out atrocities against the group.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has accused the Malaysian leader of using the crisis for political purposes to deflect corruption allegations surrounding his involvement in the disappearance of billions of dollars of public money from a state investment fund.
On Saturday, Yanghee Lee, the United Nations human rights envoy to Myanmar, wrapped up a 12-day mission to the country, which included stops in villages and at border guard stations and prisons in Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships in northern Rakhine state.
“When the allegations of human rights violations consequent to the security operations started surfacing, the government’s immediate response was to deny them,” she said. “Even when a scientifically-based analysis of the burning and destruction of houses was presented, the immediate response was dismissal.”
“But for the government to continue being defensive when allegations of serious human rights violations are persistently reported, that is when the government appears less and less credible,” she said.
Lee will submit a report the findings of her visit to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.