MILITANTS fighting against the Tatmadaw army of Burma (Myanmar) have rejected allegations of mass killings of Hindu civilians in Rakhine State amid a large-scale humanitarian crisis.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) released a statement on Wednesday saying it “categorically denies” its members had been engaged in violence against civilians, as has been alleged by the Burmese military and some Hindu refugees in Bangladesh.
Violence broke out in Burma’s northern Rakhine on Aug 25 after ARSA attacked around 30 police and military outposts. Many in the international community have condemned what they see as a disproportionate response from the Tatmadaw.
The United Nations said on Tuesday that more than 480,000 people have now fled Burma into Bangladesh in the past month, bringing the total number of refugees there to over 700,000.
ARSA said in a statement posted to Twitter that its combatants had not “perpetrated murder, sexual violence, or forcible recruitment in the villages of Fakirabazar, Riktapara, and Chikonchhardi in Maungdaw on or about 25 August 2017.”
The Burmese government posted images to Facebook earlier this week of dozens of corpses which it claimed were Hindu victims found in mass graves near Maungdaw killed by the “extremist Bengali terrorists” of ARSA.
According to a local doctor quoted by the government, the victims’ bodies “were found with their throats slits while their hands were tied and were blindfolded.”
ARSA said in its statement that it “also expresses its deepest sympathy for all victims of persecution, murder, war crime, genocide, ethnic-cleansing, and other crimes against humanity, irrespective of ethnic or religious background as perpetrated by the Burmese army and/or any other party to the conflict.”
Human Rights Watch meanwhile accused Burma of “playing politics with the dead” through its release of the images and accusations against ARSA, which it said were not independently verified.
“While Burmese authorities have put on a stage-managed tour to the Hindu village in question, as well as Rohingya villages unaffected by the recent violence, they have denied access to independent monitors to the mass graves and the rest of northern Rakhine State,” said the New York-based group in a statement.
“The government’s quick conclusion on ARSA’s guilt contrasts sharply with its own unwillingness to credibly investigate countless alleged crimes committed by its own forces against Rohingya Muslims.”
International aid organisations on Wednesday again called upon Burma to allow them to access Rakhine State to allow them to assist affected populations, where currently “almost no” humanitarian aid was being provided at present.
The public statement signed by 18 non-government organisations including Oxfam and Save the Children said that while Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi had announced in a ‘diplomatic briefing’ on Sep 19 that a humanitarian mission would be led by the Red Cross in Rakhine State, it expressed that they were “very concerned” that it would be insufficient to meet the “enormous humanitarian needs” across the region.
Moreover, the aid organisations said that 120,000 internally displaced persons residing in camps in central Rakhine since violence in 2012 are heavily reliant upon assistance which has been “severely curtailed” since renewed clashes broke out on Aug 25.
“We repeat our call to all actors to cease the spread of misinformation and unfounded accusations against humanitarian organisations that risks the safety of our staff and hinders the provision of life-saving assistance,” it said.
The Burmese government has repeatedly accused NGOs of working with terrorists.