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AP investigation: Myanmar reverts to massacres as weapon of war

In this aerial photo released by the Chin Human Rights Organization, Fires destroy numerous buildings in the town of Thantlang in Chin State in northwest Myanmar, in a Dec. 4, 2021 photo released by the Chin Human Rights Organization. More than 580 buildings had been burned since September, according to satellite image analysis by Maxar Technologies. An AP investigation uncovered evidence the Myanmar’s military is reverting to massacres as a weapon of war against both civilians and the growing opposition. (Chin Human Rights Organization via AP)

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Video journalist Sam McNeil, Asia reporter David Rising and video journalist Rishabh Jain used interviews with dozens of witnesses, social media, satellite imagery and data on deaths to expose a campaign of massacres conducted by Myanmar’s military.

Since it took over the government last February, the Myanmar military has been escalating its violence against both the opposition and civilians, and has reverted to scorched-earth tactics as a weapon of war.

Reporting out of Myanmar is difficult at the best of times,with the constant danger to sources and the lack of access. This story was particularly challenging as the journalists pulled it off in three weeks,start to finish,working through vacations and holidays. Special credit goes to AP’s stringers,who found and interviewed 40 witnesses.

The team also brought important context and understanding to the subject that comes from the AP’s previous coverage of Myanmar. They noted that the massacres and burnings signal a return to practices the military has long used against ethnic minorities such as the Muslim Rohingya — this time applied also to the Buddhist Bamar majority. In recent months,most of the massacres have happened in the country’s northwest,including in a region that is largely Bamar.

The story was also timely, coming just days after a massacre of at least 35 civilians by the military on Christmas Eve.

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A comparison of satellite images of Jan. 6, 2018, left, and Dec. 18, 2021, right, provided by Maxar Technologies, shows numerous homes and structures recently burned in the town of Thantlang, in Chin State in northwest Myanmar. More than 580 buildings have been burned since September, according to satellite image analysis by Maxar. – ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP
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