Warning: Distressing vision
Dateline tonight on SBS reports on Myanmar’s killing fields, with exclusive footage and interviews on the plight of Rohingya Muslims.
The plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people is said to be the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Since security forces began a violent campaign in August 2017, up to 700,000 people have fled their homes to travel across the Myanmar border to nearby Bangladesh.
Thousands of civilians, including children, are thought to have been killed. It’s a story of systematic discrimination, of state sanctioned violence and ultimately of mass murder.
In this special hour-long episode of Dateline, reporter Evan Williams hears first-hand about brutal killings and attacks on children, and asks whether Myanmar’s leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, could be held accountable for atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims.
“She had gone from a human rights heroine, a beacon of democracy, to a politician catering to the military, wanting the military to support her,” explains former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson.
Aung San Suu Kyi rejects the criticism and says that the military is simply hunting terrorists, but a network of Rohingya activists were secretly filming what was really happening, risking their lives in the process.
Their ground breaking accounts of video evidence of several unknown massacres, provides Dateline with the first proper look at whether the killing of civilians could be genocide.
The UN’s Human Rights High Commissioner, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Hussein certainly believes that it is and states, “It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a court subsequently made a determination that acts of genocide have been perpetrated.”
Evan also meets some of the survivors of an attack on the village of Dar Gyi Zar one year before the Rohingya crisis became world news who explain that more than 170 people were killed, with many of the bodies burned.
One villager named Nurul is shown footage and cries when he sees his dead daughter, and 12-month old granddaughter covered in a cloth.
Another villager tells of the sound of screaming children as they were thrown into the fire.
Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Hussein explains, “Even by the standards that we are used to seeing this was absolutely shocking stuff, absolutely shocking and I remember thinking how children were hunted down aged five and six and had their throats slit, well this is ISIS-like stuff.”
So, why is nothing being done to stop these acts of violence?
When the UN passed a resolution to send a fact finding mission to Myanmar earlier in 2017, Aung San Suu Kyi refused to give them access, arguing that outside scrutiny would worsen the tensions.
As those tensions escalated, the UN’s human rights special envoy Yanghee Lee gained access to the country. She had already spoken out about the need to protect the Rohingya from persecution – causing angry protests by Buddhist nationalists.
Speaking about a meeting with Aung San Suu Kui for the first time, Yanghee Lee explains how she appeared to resist her call for help.
“She was becoming very, very defensive and said that these were all made up stories. I said, ‘I just want to ask you that I need more access and I would really like your supporting in getting access,’ and she looked at me and she said, ‘if you continue the narrative of the UN you know you might not get that access’ and I stopped and I thought, I couldn’t believe my ears and I thought she must be kidding me.”
Yanghee Lee was subsequently accused of bias and banned from entering the country.
Tuesday 15 May at 9.30pm on SBS.