Rohingya insurgents open to peace but Myanmar cease-fire ending

Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy road after collecting relief aid at Kutupalaong refugee camp in Bangladeshi district of Ukhia October 6, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 07 October 2017
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Rohingya insurgents open to peace but Myanmar cease-fire ending

YANGON: Muslim Rohingya insurgents said on Saturday they are ready to respond to any peace move by the Myanmar government but a one-month cease-fire they declared to enable the delivery of aid in violence-racked Rakhine State is about to end.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) did not say what action it would take after the cease-fire ends at midnight on Monday but it was “determined to stop the tyranny and oppression” waged against the Rohingya people.
“If at any stage, the Burmese government is inclined to peace, then ARSA will welcome that inclination and reciprocate,” the group said in a statement.
Government spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
When the ARSA announced its one-month cease-fire from Sept. 10, a government spokesman said: “We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists.”
The rebels launched coordinated attacks on about 30 security posts and an army camp on Aug. 25 with the help of hundreds of disaffected Rohingya villagers, many wielding sticks or machetes, killing about a dozen people.
In response, the military unleashed a sweeping offensive across the north of Rakhine State, driving more than half a million Rohingya villagers into Bangladesh in what the United Nations branded a textbook example of “ethnic cleansing.”
Myanmar rejects that. It says more than 500 people have been killed in the fighting, most of them “terrorists” who have been attacking civilians and torching villages.
The ability of the ARSA, which only surfaced in October last year, to mount any sort of challenge to the Myanmar army is not known but it does not appear to have been able to put up resistance to the military offensive unleashed in August.
Inevitably, there are doubts about how the insurgents can operate in areas where the military has driven out the civilian population, cutting the insurgents off from recruits, food, funds and information.
The ARSA accused the government of using murder, arson and rape as “tools of depopulation.”
The ARSA denies links to foreign Islamists.
In an interview with Reuters in March, ARSA leader Ata Ullah linked the creation of the group to communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine in 2012, when nearly 200 people were killed and 140,000, mostly Rohingya, displaced.
The group says it is fighting for the rights of the Rohingya, who have never been regarded as an indigenous minority in Myanmar and so have been denied citizenship under a law that links nationality to ethnicity.
The group repeated their demand that Rohingya be recognized as a “native indigenous” ethnic group, adding that all Rohingya people should be allowed “to return home safely with dignity ... to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
The Rohingya have long faced discrimination and repression in Rakhine State where bad blood between them and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, stemming from violence by both sides, goes back generations.
The ARSA condemned the government for blocking humanitarian assistance in Rakhine and said it was willing to discuss cease-fires with international organizations so aid could be delivered.
Some 515,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh but thousands remain in Rakhine.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced scathing criticism for not doing more to stop the violence, although a military-drafted constitution gives her no power over the security forces.
Suu Kyi has condemned rights abuses and said Myanmar was ready to start a process agreed with Bangladesh in 1993 by which anyone verified as a refugee would be accepted back.
Many refugees fear they will not have the paperwork they believe Myanmar will demand to allow them back.


Armenian protest leader will only discuss PM's 'departure'

Updated 21 April 2018
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Armenian protest leader will only discuss PM's 'departure'

  • Demonstrators waved Armenian flags and blocked streets, disrupting traffic in the capital.
  • "The whole world can see this is a people's velvet revolution, which very soon will be victorious," Pashinyan said.
YEREVAN: Armenia's political crisis deepened Saturday on the ninth day of anti-government demonstrations, with protest leader Nikol Pashinyan insisting he would only discuss the exit of the country's newly elected prime minister.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to Republic Square in the capital Yerevan to protest against new premier Serzh Sarkissian's rule, according to AFP journalists at the scene.
"We are only ready to discuss the conditions of his departure," news agencies quoted Pashinyan as saying, rejecting Sarkissian's appeal for "political dialogue".
"Serzh Sarkissian doesn't understand the new situation that has emerged in the recent days... the Armenia and Yerevan he knows does not exist anymore," he told protestors.
Opposition supporters are angry over Sarkissian's efforts to remain in power, after he became prime minister last week, following a decade serving as president.
Demonstrators waved Armenian flags and blocked streets, disrupting traffic in the capital. Police said they made 84 arrests on Saturday afternoon, and more than 230 people were arrested on Friday.
Rallies were also planned in other cities such as Gyumri, Ararat and Artashat.
President Armen Sarkissian -- no relation to Serzh -- on Saturday afternoon met Pashinyan at the demonstration, an AFP journalist said.
Flanked by bodyguards President Sarkissian shook hands with the opposition leader and the pair spoke for around ten minutes.
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkissian had earlier sought discussions with the protest leader.
"I am deeply concerned about the unfolding internal political events. In order to avoid irreversible consequences, I call on deputy Nikol Pashinyan to sit at the table of political dialogue and negotiation," the 63-year-old leader said in a statement.
At a 30,000 strong rally in Yerevan on Friday evening, Pashinyan laid out his demands for the authorities.
"First, Sarkissian resigns. Second, parliament elects a new prime minister that represents the people.
"Third, it forms a temporary government. Fourth, they schedule parliamentary elections. We will enter negotiations around these demands," he said, calling Serzh Sarkissian a "political corpse".
"The whole world can see this is a people's velvet revolution, which very soon will be victorious," Pashinyan told the rally.
Demonstrators on Saturday held up placards reading "Sarkissian is a dictator".
"I believe we will win this time because when the youth is on the street the police can do nothing," Hovik Haranyan, a 25-year-old protester blocking traffic, told AFP.
"Our generation has the right to live in a functioning country," he added.
Opposition supporters have criticised the 63-year-old leader over poverty, corruption and the influence of powerful oligarchs.
A former military officer, Serzh Sarkissian has been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million people for a decade.
Under a new parliamentary system of government, lawmakers elected Serzh Sarkissian as prime minister last week after he served a decade as president from 2008.
Constitutional amendments approved in 2015 have transferred power from the presidency to the premier.
After he was first elected in 2008, 10 people died and hundreds were injured in bloody clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.