Physicians say Rohingya scars 'highly consistent' with Myanmar atrocity reports

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Rohingya Muslims’ accounts of being shot, hacked and wounded by explosives are supported by forensic evidence, according to a report by physicians who examined them in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

FILE PHOTO: A Rohingya refugee is seen in Balukhali refugee camp at dawn near Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne//File Photo

The report, compiled by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and seen by Reuters, will be published later in July. It is the first large-scale effort by medical experts to corroborate the accounts of refugees. U.S.-based PHR investigates mass atrocities globally and shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its work medically documenting landmine injuries.

The PHR report focused on refugees from the village of Chut Pyin. Myanmar security forces fired on civilians, raped women and burned homes, survivors and Rohingya from neighboring villages told Reuters. They estimated hundreds were killed.

The Myanmar government and Myanmar military did not respond to requests for comment on the report. Officials have said previously that security forces were conducting legitimate counter-insurgency operations against “Bengali terrorists” and have rejected almost all allegations of atrocities committed by troops.

Of the 25 Chut Pyin survivors examined by PHR, 22 had physical injuries, according to the report.

Seventeen had gunshot wounds, five had suffered blunt trauma such as from kicking or beating, three had wounds from explosions or burns, three had penetrating injuries such as from stabbings, and two had suffered sexual violence.

“All the forensic examinations and medical records were highly consistent with the histories that the survivors described,” said PHR.

“Chut Pyin exemplifies the campaign of violence that Myanmar authorities have carried out against the Rohingya people” and “should be investigated as crimes against humanity”, the report concluded.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border from Myanmar since August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a crackdown following a series of insurgent attacks on dozens of police posts and an army base.

Reuters, PHR and humanitarian groups have placed Myanmar’s 33rd Light Infantry Division in Chut Pyin in the days before security forces swept through the village. Commanders from the 33rd held a series of threatening meetings with Rohingya leaders, attendees told Reuters. At another meeting later, a 33rd commander said its troops had attacked the village, an attendee said.

The 33rd is one of two elite infantry divisions profiled by Reuters as the “tip of the spear” - a term used by some Western military analysts - in the Rohingya offensive. It was also identified in a recent Amnesty International report as having led the attack on Chut Pyin.

Reporting by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Alex Richardson