BANGKOK - The sight of more than a dozen young men armed with machetes walking out of a burning village in Western Myanmar is the moment I realized that I was witnessing a genocide in progress.
In the eight years I spent documenting a campaign of oppression against the country's ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims, I had heard countless tales from victims who had endured or witnessed atrocities committed by Myanmar's security forces.
Now, I was witnessing it in real time during the tail end of a government-approved press tour to Rakhine state’s conflict zone in September of 2017. Two men, barefoot and wearing traditional longyis, stopped briefly on a dirt footpath in front of me as I filmed the destruction.
A journalist asked what they were doing. Speaking a local dialect, one replied that they had been ordered by Myanmar's Border Guard Forces (BGF) to burn the village. At their feet lay plastic jugs with diesel fuel. Behind them, orange flames devoured the bamboo huts in the now-empty hamlet of Gaw du Thara.
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