THE ROHINGYA militant group fighting the Tatmadaw military of Burma (Myanmar) in the country’s northern Rakhine State has declared a ceasefire amid a conflict which has caused the flight of almost 300,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighbouring Bangladesh over the past two weeks.
The group, known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), announced via its Twitter account a one-month “cessation of offensive military operations” on Sunday to enable “humanitarian actors to assess and respond to the humanitarian crisis in Arakan State.”
Arakan is the former name of Rakhine State. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that 290,000 Rohingya have fled over the border from the Rakhine into Bangladesh over the past two weeks.
“ARSA strongly urges the Burmese government to reciprocate this humanitarian pause by ceasing military offensive operations and participate in assisting the victims regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds in all conflicted affected,” the statement read.
— ARSA_The Army (@ARSA_Official) September 9, 2017
Burma’s government has denied access to a UN mission seeking to investigate human rights abuses and has repeatedly accused international NGOs of aiding ARSA which it brands “extremist terrorists.”
A coalition of 15 NGOs including Save the Children, Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee rejected the accusations in a statement last month and called upon Burma to allow aid organisations to access populations in need.
Zaw Htay, the director of Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s office, indirectly responded to ARSA’s ceasefire by tweeting: “We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists.”
— Zaw Htay (@ZawHtayMyanmar) September 10, 2017
Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister said on Sunday that violence against Rohingya in the Rakhine was similar to genocide. “They have killed over 3,000 people there and razed their houses,” AH Mahmood Ali told reporters, as quoted by the Dhaka Tribune.
“Only Naypyitaw [Burma’s capital] can solve the crisis. We’ve held bilateral discussions with Myanmar on [the] Rohingya issue. We are not going to war with them as it never solves anything,” said the minister.
Rights group Amnesty International released a statement on Sunday which claimed new landmine blasts over the weekend suggested “deliberate targeting” of Rohingya attempting to flee Burma.
A 20-year-old Bangladeshi farmer reportedly had his leg blown off while another Rohingya man had been rushed to medical treatment in Cox’s Bazar, both having stepped on landmines near paths that cross the border between Bangladesh and Burma.
“All indications point to the Myanmar security forces deliberately targeting locations that Rohingya refugees use as crossing points,” said Amnesty. “Myanmar’s authorities must immediately end this abhorrent practice and allow demining teams to access its border areas.”