Home News Myanmar insurgent group accused of persecuting Rohingya

Myanmar insurgent group accused of persecuting Rohingya

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International court still investigating Myanmar military slaughter In 2017, Myanmar’s military launched a genocide against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, while those who remained were persecuted by the junta. Now, Myanmar’s military faces a new threat, this time from a powerful insurgency.

The armed force, known as the Arakan Army, has taken control of much of Myanmar’s Rakhine state over the past few months and more recently of areas in the north, where many Rohingya still live. In recent days, human rights groups have accused the rebels of driving ethnic minorities from their homes and destroying their property, many of them by arson. The Arakan Army has denied the charges.

The sectarian conflict highlights Myanmar’s complex ethnic makeup and rivalries. In Rakhine state, a barren expanse of land in western Myanmar formerly known as Arakan, many ethnic Rakhine Buddhists have long sought to break away from Myanmar and the ethnic Burmese majority. They also often ignore the plight of another group they live with, who are wrongly viewed as interlopers and troublemakers from Bangladesh: the Rohingya.

The Arakan Army, which claims to have 40,000 members and was founded about 15 years ago, has been fighting the Myanmar military for years. It has grown into one of the country’s most powerful armed forces. Rebels of various ethnic groups They are united in their shared desire to overthrow the military junta, which launched a coup in 2021 and is now facing its biggest challenge to its rule from both insurgent and pro-democracy forces.

Even as Myanmar’s military junta appears increasingly weak, reports of abuses by the Arakan Army against the Rohingya have raised concerns about renewed atrocities.

“The Arakan Army soldiers told us to move to a safer place because there was fighting in our town and we were in danger. Before we could decide whether to move, the house caught fire,” said Aung Htay, 42, a Rohingya resident of Buthidaung, one of the largest towns destroyed by the fire. He said in a telephone interview that he did not know what caused the fire in the town, which broke out after dark.

In interviews, nine other residents of the surrounding area said homes had been burned and residents had been forced to leave in recent weeks. It was not clear who was responsible for the violence, but there were signs the Arakan Army was involved.

“We interviewed multiple witnesses who said the Arakan Army took control of Buthidaung township on the evening of May 17 and carried out large-scale arson attacks there,” said Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, referring to the Arakan Army by its acronym.

The United Nations also said the fires came after the withdrawal of Myanmar’s military, which has displaced tens of thousands of ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya people across the state. Some have gone to neighboring Bangladesh, where about a million Rohingya have fled in fear for their lives in previous years and settled in refugee camps there.

But Bangladesh does not allow Rohingya refugees to work and move freely, and conditions in the refugee camps have become More and more terrible.

Bangladesh’s Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told local news media on Friday during a visit to one of the refugee camps that the country would no longer allow people from Myanmar to enter.

The Arakan Army has also been accused by human rights groups of abusing the ethnic Rakhine Buddhists it claims to represent. A representative for the group has denied the allegations of misconduct.

“We will not burn down houses,” Khaing Thu Kha, a spokesman for the group, said by telephone. Instead, he blamed the fires on Myanmar’s military junta. Military officials could not be reached for comment.

He also denied allegations that the rebels were forcing civilians to flee their homes. “The Arakan Army has never forced anyone to relocate. But we may have advised people to leave because the war zone is unsafe.”

Some of the Arakan Army’s social media posts were less cordial in tone. While the Arakan Army referred to the Rohingya as “friends” and “fellow countrymen,” Arakan Army commander Twan Mrat Naing also referred to the Muslim minority as “Bengalis,” a term widely seen as an insult that implies the Rohingya are infiltrators from Bangladesh with no rights in Myanmar.

In one of X’s more inflammatory statements, he accused Rohingya activists of wanting to establish a “separate Islamic safe zone”, something Rohingya activists denied in a statement.

The charges against the Arakan Army come amid reports that Rohingya have been conscripted and joined by forces that have attacked villages in Rakhine State. Human Rights Watch believe More than a thousand Rohingya men have been forcibly conscripted since February.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed alarm at the renewed sectarian tensions and warned that “the risk of further atrocities is enormous.”

In a joint statement, Rohingya activists urged the Arakan Army leadership not to fall into the military’s trap of trying to play the two communities against each other and play divide and rule. “Only the military regime will benefit from this,” the groups, including the European Rohingya Council and the UK Burma Rohingya Organisation, said in the statement.

Sectarian tensions in Rakhine State have a long history. During World War II, the Rakhine people allied themselves with the Japanese and the Rohingya with the British. When the military seized power in 1962, the Rohingya were persecuted and eventually declared stateless. Hundreds of Rakhine and Rohingya were killed in the 2012 conflict. When more than 700,000 Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh in 2016 and 2017, the Rakhine people were accused of assisting in the killing of their Muslim neighbors, an action later officially designated as “genocide.” Genocide U.S. Department of State.

“The Myanmar military is still trying to create ethnic and religious issues. When they fail, they tend to create such conflicts, so we need to be careful,” said U Aung Thaung Shwe, a former Rakhine state lawmaker who represents Buthidaung. He said his house was also burned and he did not know who was responsible.

Today, the Rohingya are forced to choose sides in a conflict where neither side has stood up for their rights. They are also oppressed by their own armed groups, which are accused of forcibly conscripting Rohingya youth into refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a prominent Burmese human rights activist, said: “The reality on the ground may be complex, but one thing is simple: the Rohingya are being exploited again.”

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