The grainy black-and-white photo, printed in a new book on the Rohingya crisis authored by Myanmar’s Army, shows a man standing over two bodies, wielding a farming tool. The caption goes as ‘Bengalis killed local ethnics brutally’.
A report published in the The Hindu stated that the photo appears in a section of the book covering ethnic riots in Myanmar in the 1940s. The text says the image shows Buddhists murdered by Rohingya — members of a Muslim minority the book refer to as “Bengalis” to imply they are illegal immigrants. But an examination of the photograph shows it was actually taken during Bangladesh’s 1971 Independence War.
The report further stated that it is one of three images that appear in the book, published in July this year by the Army’s Department of Public Relations and Psychological Warfare that have been misrepresented as archival pictures from the western State of Rakhine.
In fact, two of the photos were originally taken in Bangladesh and Tanzania. A third was falsely labelled as depicting Rohingya entering Myanmar from Bangladesh, when in reality it showed migrants leaving the country.
The 117-page Myanmar Politics and the Tatmadaw: Part I relates the Army’s narrative of August last year, when some 7, 00,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, according to UN agencies, triggering reports of mass killings, rape, and arson. Tatmadaw is the official name of Myanmar’s military.
Much of the content is sourced to the military’s ‘True News’ information unit, which since the start of the crisis has distributed news giving the Army’s perspective, mostly via Facebook. On Monday, Facebook banned the Myanmar Army chief and other military officials accused of using the platform to “inflame ethnic and religious tensions”. The same day, UN investigators accused Senior General Min Aung Hlaing of overseeing a campaign with “genocidal intent” and recommended he and other senior officials be “prosecuted for crimes against humanity”.
In its new book, the military denies the allegations of abuses, blaming the violence on “Bengali terrorists” it says were intent on carving out a Rohingya State named ‘Arkistan’. The book also seeks to trace the history of the Rohingya — who regard themselves as native to western Myanmar — casting them as interlopers from Bangladesh.