Reuters journalists arrested in Yangon, facing Official Secrets Act charges

Myanmar’s military in a Rohingya village in Rakhine State in September. Credit Nyein Chan Naing  European P

Myanmar’s military in a Rohingya village in Rakhine State in September. Credit Nyein Chan Naing European P

An global aid group estimates that at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in Myanmar's Rakhine State in violence that broke out there in late August, according to a statement made available Thursday.

The group, known by its French acronym MSF, conducted field studies to determine the number of people killed in the period August 25, when a brutal crackdown by Myanmar's military began, and September 24.

The Muslim-majority community is denied citizenship by Myanmar, where they are seen as immigrants from Bangladesh.

MSF said that among children below the age of 5, more than 59 percent who were killed during that period were reportedly shot, 15 percent burnt to death in their homes, 7 percent beaten to death and 2 percent died due to land mine blasts.

"The peak in deaths coincides with the launch of the latest "clearance operations" by Myanmar security forces in the last week of August".

The estimate of the number of deaths announced by the group compares to Myanmar's government figure of 400 in September as a result of attacks on police posts by Rohingya militants.

"We met and spoke with survivors of violence in Myanmar, who are now sheltering in overcrowded and unsanitary camps in Bangladesh", said the group's medical director Sidney Wong.

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Earlier this month the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the military-led crackdown appeared to include "elements of genocide".

"Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reporting on events of global importance in [Burma], and we learned today that they have been arrested in connection with their work", said Stephen J. Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters.

Reuters news agency called on Myanmar to immediately release two of its journalists who were arrested for possessing "important secret papers" obtained from two policemen who had worked in Rakhine state, where violence widely blamed on security forces has forced more than 630,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.

"The global community must work to end the violence, bring perpetrators to justice and insist on immediate, full and unfettered humanitarian access to all people in need in Rakhine state", Bangladesh director Mark Pierce said in a statement.

"The EU delegation is closely following their case and we call on the Myanmar authorities to ensure the full protection of their rights", it said in a statement.

"We don't know what source MSF's numbers are based on", Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's social welfare minister, told the Myanmar Service of Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister entity of BenarNews, on Thursday.

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