Myanmar army fakes Rohingya photos in ‘True News’ book

YANGON: 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. “Bengalis killed local ethnics brutally”, reads the caption.
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 minority the book refers to as “Bengalis” to imply they are illegal immigrants.
But a Reuters examination of the photograph shows it was actually taken during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war, when hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis were killed.
It is one of three images that appear in the book, published in July 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, Reuters found that two of the photos originally were 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.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay and a military spokesman could not be reached for comment on the authenticity of the images. U Myo Myint Maung, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information, declined to comment, saying he had not read the book.
The 117-page “Myanmar Politics and the Tatmadaw: Part I” relates the army’s narrative of August last year, when some 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, according to United Nations 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.
The book is on sale at bookstores across the commercial capital of 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,” said the bookseller, who declined to be named. — Reuters