Rohingya rebel group denies links to human, drug trafficking groups
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Rohingya rebel group denies links to human, drug trafficking groups

THE armed rebel group fighting for the liberation of the Rohingya people has accused the Burmese military of hiring violent gangs to pose as its members to tarnish its “noble image.”

In a statement released Wednesday, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) said the “Burmese terrorist government” had commissioned groups that were committing offences in their name. They also accused other independent armed groups of the same.

“There are other armed groups, dacoit groups (armed robbers), human trafficking groups, drug trafficking groups and some other groups commissioned by the Burmese terrorist government that have been operating various activities inside Arakan State, as well as inside Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, by disguising as the members of ARSA with the intention to tarnish the noble image of ARSA in the eyes of the international community,” the statement reads.


It is not clear what specific incidents the group are referring to. The statement goes on to assert that it strictly does not allow any of its members to attack civilians “regardless of their religious and ethnic background”. It’s only action is in self-defence and directed only at the “terrorist military regime,” referring to the Tatmadaw, as the Burmese army is known.

ARSA were responsible for the Aug 25 attack on police outposts in northern Rakhine State, which prompted the most recent outbreak of violence in the region. The military “clearance operations” that followed forced over 655,000 Rohingya refugees to flee across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh.

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Rohingya refugees walk inside Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh January 8, 2018. Source: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

Kutupalong in Bangladesh’s border region is now home to one of the biggest refugee camps in the world. Talks between Bangladesh and Burma resulted in a plan for repatriation of the Rohingya Muslim minority. The process was due to start last week but was postponed after Bangladeshi officials said more time was required to prepare. There was also strong reluctance from the refugees to return to Rakhine.

Aid agencies voiced concern that repatriation is too premature when the safety of the refugees cannot be guaranteed upon their return to Burma where anti-Rohingya sentiment is still running high.

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A man walks past the entrance of a camp set up by Myanmar’s Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister to prepare for the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas, who fled to Bangladesh, outside Maungdaw in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar January 24, 2018. Source: Reuters

One day before repatriation was due to start on Jan 23, refugee camp leader Yusuf Ali became the second Rohingya representative to be killed in a matter of days. As both men were pro-repatriation, reports surrounding the killings indicate their position on the issue may have been linked to the deaths.

In Wednesday’s statement, ARSA declared that they would name the leaders of the other armed groups if they continue to masquerade as ARSA members, saying: “Our sole objective is to defend, salvage and protect the innocent Rohingya indigenous native ethnic community.”

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