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These Pictures Show That Rohingya Muslims Weren't Actually Setting Their Own Houses On Fire

Multiple sources have debunked images that were said to show Rohingya Muslims, who are fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh by the thousands, torching their villages to trick foreign media.

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Myanmar is currently facing a wave of international criticism due to a government-led crackdown on the country's Rohingya Muslims.

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have escaped from the country's western Rakhine state into Bangladesh in recent months following renewed attacks from the Burmese military.

One of the early stories to emerge from the crisis was how Burmese military forces have been burning down Rohingyas' homes to prevent them from returning.

Burning down the #Rohingya village by #Myanmar military and BGP in Northern Rakhine State. Happening now.

#Rohingya #Muslim village burning in #Maungdaw #Rakhine. No proof to who arsonists are now. But saw locals carryin… https://t.co/IhQpmW5NsM

Last week, images of "Bengalis" — the Myanmar government's preferred term for Rohingyas — apparently burning down their own homes in one of the townships circulated on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook: ElevenMediaEnglishEdition

According to Eleven Media, a local outlet that reported the story, the photos were part of a video taken by a man identified as Maung Maung Tun, who passed the footage to journalists. Muang told Eleven Media he did not know who the people in the video were.

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, a local Hindu woman told the press that her house had been burnt down by the Rohingyas, similar to what was seen in the photos. The AP was unable to reach her again after viewing a video of the blaze.

The images received further attention after a government official shared them on his Twitter account.

Photos of Bengalis setting fire to their houses! direct contact with anonymous person who took these photos by EMG… https://t.co/NgTkAxXzEs

However, supporters of the Rohingya community soon began to point out inaccuracies in the photos.

Facebook: Rohingya

Two Western journalists — AFP's Jerome Taylor and Jonathan Head of the BBC — were also quick to debunk the images, saying they were most likely staged.

The only thing that suggests these people are Muslims are the white prayer hats then men wear, and the headscarves. BUT...

We can't see the faces of the "women", but those headscarves do not look like the kind of scarves usually worn by Rohingya women

2 Hindus who dressed as Muslims in fake house-burning photos were also presented to us as victims to film n Maungdaw https://t.co/CTB235MLol

Head also reported that local monks told the press that Muslims had burnt their own homes prior to photos being released.

Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya blogger who also shared the photos on Twitter, said the images of the supposed Muslim attackers looked remarkably similar to local Hindus displaced by the violence.

G'Morning world class liar, master of fake news @ZawHtayMyanmar, greeting you from Europe with some more evidence f… https://t.co/ydXj9G42PV

Following the speculation about the authenticity of the photos, the Burmese official who shared the photos issued a statement that authorities were investigating what actually happened.

Myanmar Govt investigating the spreading Photos Fake or Real ? It took in #Maungtaw , setting fire to houses. Govt… https://t.co/T4ezWeIiBO

Throughout this period, the Burmese government, including former Nobel Peace Prize laureate and current ruling party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, continued to accuse foreign media of spreading fake news about the Rohingya crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her government have received huge amounts of criticism for her denial of the crisis. Last week a petition was started to strip her of her Nobel Prize that has since gained nearly half a million signatures.

In a phone interview with BuzzFeed News, Nay San, the Rohingya blogger, said previous arson attacks by the Burmese military show a pattern of behavior.

Stringer / Reuters

"They've done this before. ... They keep reporting that it's a Rohingya armed group," he said. "This is proof for the international community – the world knows it is fake news."

Eleven Media wrote a follow-up post that casts doubt on their first report, but the original article continues to remain online.

Meanwhile, Rohingya villages continue to be targeted by arsonists in Rakhine, which international rights groups say is part of the government-led campaign to drive Rohingyas out of their homes.

Today the whole village of #PaDin burnt down including the Mosque. This footage is from #KaungDaGa hamlet. At least… https://t.co/HKlejpzjcf

Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rachael Krishna at rachael.krishna@buzzfeed.com.

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