The Tadmadaw, ( official name of Burmese army) has been misrepresenting fake images and stories of Rohingya Muslima as archival pictures from the western state of Arakan state with a view to distorting the real history of ethnic Rohingya in Arakan.
The 117-page “Myanmar and the Tatmadaw: Part I” published in July by the army’s department of public relations and psychological warfare, relates the army’s narrative of so-called Clearance operation of August last year in Arakan state. The book seeks the history of Rohingya who are the native to Arakan, a western state in Burma- casting them as interlopers from neighbouring Bangladesh.
The book also presented some fake images intended to depict a false and misinformation about Rohingya and spread hates among Buddhist community. The original photos have been rotated and blurred to look them granular.
Of the 80 images in the book, most were recent pictures of army chief Min Aung Hlaing meeting foreign dignitaries or local officials visiting Rakhine. Much of the content is sourced to the military’s “True News” information unit, which since the start of the Rohingya crisis has distributed news giving the army’s perspective. Of eight photos presented as historical images, Reuters found the provenance of three pictures to be faked and was unable to determine the provenance of the five others.
A grainy black-and-white photo, printed in a section of the book covering ethnic riots in Myanmar in the 1940s shows a man standing over two bodies, wielding a farming tool, the caption of which reads, “Bengalis killed local ethnics brutally,”. The text denotes the image shows Buddhists murdered by Rohingya- the book refers to as “Bengalis”.
But Reuters identified the photograph as to actually taken during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war, when hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis were killed by Pakistani troops.
A second image was falsely labeled as depicting Rohingya entering Myanmar during the colonial era, which ended in 1948. when in reality it showed migrants leaving the country. The faded black-and-white image shows a crowd of men who appear to be on a long march with their backs bent over. “Bengalis intruded into the country after the British Colonialism occupied the lower part of Myanmar,” the caption reads. But Reuters determined the picture is in fact a distorted version of a color image taken in 1996 of refugees fleeing the genocide in Rwanda. Martha Rial, the photographer, who working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, won the Pulitzer Prize.
Another black-and-white picture shows men aboard a rickety boat designed the caption as, “Bengalis entered Myanmar via the watercourse,”. But actual story of the original photo depicts Rohingya migrants leaving Burma in 2015, when tens of thousands fled for Thailand and Malaysia.
Reuters examined the faked photographs using Google Reverse Image Search and TinEye, common tools used different news media to identify images that have previously appeared online. Checks were then made with the previously credited publishers to establish the origins of those images.
On Monday, Facebook banned the army chief and other military officials who were accused (by UN investigators) of overseeing a campaign with “genocidal intent” and using the platform to inflame ethnic and religious tensions.
In the book, the military denies the allegations of abuses, blaming the violence on Rohingya, it says were intent on carving out a Rohingya State named “Arkistan.”
In the preface of the book, the writer, listed as Lieutenant Colonel Kyaw Kyaw Oo, says the text was compiled using “documentary photos” with the aim of revealing the history of Muslims in Arakan state.The book is on sale at bookstores across the commercial capital of Yangon.