ARSA says cease­fire ends on Oc­to­ber 9

Mizzima Business Weekly - - IN FOCUS - AFP

ARSA whose at­tacks trig­gered an army crack­down in Myan­mar's Rakhine state un­leash­ing a huge wave of refugees said last week their one-month cease­fire would end in two days, but added they were open to a peace deal if the gov­ern­ment of­fered it.In a state­ment re­leased through its Twit­ter ac­count, the Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army (ARSA) said its uni­lat­eral truce would end at mid­night on Oc­to­ber 9. "The hu­man­i­tar­ian pause was con­ducted in or­der to en­able hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors to as­sess and re­spond to the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Arakan (Rakhine)," the state­ment said. "If at any stage, the Burmese gov­ern­ment is in­clined to peace, then ARSA will wel­come that in­cli­na­tion and re­cip­ro­cate," it added, us­ing the for­mer name for Myan­mar. The state­ment did not in­clude any di­rect threats of new vi­o­lence.

Myan­mar's gov­ern­ment spokesman did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment Satur­day but has pre­vi­ously said the coun­try does not "ne­go­ti­ate with ter­ror­ists". The shad­owy, poorly-armed ARSA tipped north­ern Rakhine into cri­sis when it am­bushed po­lice posts on Au­gust 25. More than half a mil­lion Ro­hingya have fled to Bangladesh in the last six weeks, an ex­o­dus that has spi­ralled into one of the world's most ur­gent refugee crises. In its state­ment, ARSA said it had helped pro­vide "safe pas­sage" to refugees flee­ing to Bangladesh. While the worst of the blood­shed ap­pears to have abated in re­cent weeks, tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya con­tinue to stream over to Bangladesh, pass­ing through a vi­o­lence-scarred re­gion where hun­dreds of vil­lages have been re­duced to smoul­der­ing ash. Ro­hingya refugees and rights groups have ac­cused the army of set­ting the fires with the help of Bud­dhist vig­i­lante mobs. But the mil­i­tary has de­nied the charge, in­stead ac­cus­ing mil­i­tants of raz­ing their own homes to drum up global sup­port and com­mit­ting other atroc­i­ties against Bud­dhists and Hin­dus. - ‘Will­ing to fight’ Myan­mar

au­thor­i­ties have cut off ac­cess to the con­flict zone, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ver­ify claims over who is driv­ing the com­mu­nal blood­shed that has in­ten­si­fied al­ready bit­ter eth­nic ha­treds. Aid groups have also been un­able to reach vul­ner­a­ble Ro­hingya com­mu­ni­ties still liv­ing in the re­gion, as ten­sions with Rakhine Bud­dhist neigh­bours have sky­rock­eted. ARSA’s fight­ing ca­pac­ity at this stage is un­known. The group, which launched its first ma­jor at­tack last Oc­to­ber, re­mains hope­lessly out­gunned by the Myan­mar mil­i­tary and re­lies mostly on crude weapons. But an­a­lysts say its lead­er­ship has spent years build­ing up sup­port in vil­lage cells across north­ern Rakhine, re­cruit­ing young men to the cause of de­fend­ing the Ro­hingya’s po­lit­i­cal rights. In the squalid refugee set­tle­ments sprout­ing up in Bangladesh, al­leged ARSA re­cruiters have told AFP that they have en­listed hun­dreds who are will­ing to go back to Myan­mar to fight. But other refugees told AFP they sim­ply wanted an end to the vi­o­lence.

“The (Myan­mar) mil­i­tary and ARSA should sit in a roundtable meet­ing... there is no point in killing and butcher­ing each other,” said Mo­hammed Idriss, a Ro­hingya refugee in Bangladesh’s Ku­tu­pa­long camp. He is among hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ro­hingya who ar­rived in Bangladesh camps be­fore the lat­est ex­o­dus, hav­ing fled pre­vi­ous waves of per­se­cu­tion. The Mus­lim mi­nor­ity has faced decades of sys­tem­atic re­pres­sion in mainly Bud­dhist Myan­mar, with many liv­ing un­der apartheid-like re­stric­tions that an­a­lysts have long warned could breed ex­trem­ism. The gov­ern­ment re­fuses to recog­nise the Ro­hingya as a dis­tinct eth­nic group, in­stead de­scrib­ing them as “Ben­gali” in­ter­lop­ers. vThe view is widely shared by the Bud­dhist ma­jor­ity, who have shown lit­tle sym­pa­thy for the Ro­hingya, lav­ish­ing un­ex­pected sup­port on an army that once ruled the coun­try with an iron fist.

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