The filmmaker behind Al Jazeera’s ‘Hidden Genocide’ has refuted accusations of fabrication made by the Rakhine Nationalities and Development Party (RNDP) chairman.
The documentary provides testimony from both Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Arakanese concerning the rioting in early June in Arakan state that killed more than 100 people and displaced tens of thousands according to government figures.
In the film, several of the individuals interviewed claim that government paramilitary forces massacred the Rohingya Muslims, who were later buried in mass graves.
Earlier in the week, during an interview with DVB, RNDP chairman Dr Aye Maung alleged that one of the film’s central characters, Jannat Ara, who had been raped by Burmese paramilitary members and later died from complications caused by her injuries in Bangladesh, was fictitious.
“They also have this made-up character – a woman who was raped and hospitalised and she travelled to Bangladesh from Arakan for a medical treatment,” Aye Maung told DVB earlier this week.
The RNDP party boss went onto say the documentary was ‘biased’ and looked ‘like it was created in a studio’.
“It is amazing how Dr Aye Maung thinks we (international journalists, NGOs and so on) ‘make things up’,” said filmmaker Phil Rees during an email exchange with DVB.
The filmmaker had met with Jannat Ara on two separate occasions during the production of the film.
“I saw medical records from a hospital in Chittagong that confirmed that trauma to her genital area and anus was ‘consistent with being raped by more than 20 men’,” said Rees.
Jannat Ara had a drip permanently inserted in her neck to provide regular dialysis she needed for a kidney problem she contracted from the rape.
According to Rees, the medical care was costing hundreds of dollars a month, which she was unable to afford.
“I said in the film on several occasions that Rakhine [Arakanese] were victims of rioting in Maungdaw and many were made homeless. The overwhelming percentage of victims are, of course, Rohingya,” said Rees.
“But the central problem is the ideology that fails to allow people who were born and brought up in the state to become part of the society there.”
The RNDP has a history of antagonising residents in Arakan state and playing off nationalist sentiments.
In July, security forces briefly detained two RNDP members in Arakan state’s Mrauk-U township after the duo went around town urging Arakanese nationals who owned rice mills to only sell their goods to Arakanese Buddhists.
The RNDP members were later bailed out after being warned by the region’s tactical operations commander not to act in ways that could incite riots and were forced to sign a pledge to avoid such behaviour.
Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to preemptively discredit the Al Jazeera documentary in both editions of the New Light of Myanmar claiming the film had exaggerated and fabricated incidents that had occurred in Arakan state.