Myanmar denied Friday that there were mass graves in a village in troubled Rakhine state, where a military crackdown on insurgents has triggered the flight of nearly 690,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.
The Associated Press has reported it had confirmed the existence of more than five previously unreported mass graves in the village of Gu Dar Pyin, through interviews with survivors in refugee camps in Bangladesh and through time-stamped cellphone videos.
The Myanmar government's Information Committee, part of the office of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said in a statement on its Facebook page that local authorities and security officials formed a "ground team" that investigated the report.
"The ground team went to the locations that were mentioned in the AP news story as where the bodies were buried and found out that it is not true," the statement said.
"Besides, they met with local elders and villagers and asked whether there were mass killings or not and the villagers told them that there were none."
The statement said, however, that 19 "terrorists" had been killed when they attacked security forces in the village in late August and that their bodies had been "properly buried".
Two Rohingya residents, who were still in the village and spoke to Reuters by telephone, disputed the government's statement and said that there were mass graves there.
"The villagers were frightened and said they didn't know how many had died or who had burned their houses but said, yes, there are mass graves here," the resident said.
The AP's Director of Media Relations Lauren Easton said the agency stood by its reporting.
The United Nations has condemned the army's campaign as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar denies that, saying its forces were carrying out legitimate counterinsurgency operations.