Rohingya militants condemn violence in refugee camps amid reports of killings

A Rohingya refugee walks at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019. (Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
Updated 13 March 2019
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Rohingya militants condemn violence in refugee camps amid reports of killings

  • The government calls them terrorists and says sweeping military action in the western state of Rakhine was justified
  • More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar

YANGON: Myanmar’s Rohingya militants urged their followers on Wednesday to refrain from crime in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, following reports of killings and abductions attributed to the group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
ARSA, which emerged with attacks on border posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2016, is focused on winning rights for Rohingya, the mostly stateless Muslim minority long persecuted in Myanmar.
The government calls them terrorists and says sweeping military action in the western state of Rakhine, which triggered an exodus of refugees into Bangladesh, was justified.
In recent weeks, Bangladesh-based media has blamed the group for organized violence in the refugee camps, including a series of killings. The group acknowledged the violence but denied that the leadership sanctioned it.
“Those people are not only going against the Bangladesh government but are also making ARSA responsible for their own crimes,” the group said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
“And because of their activities the whole community is being defamed all over the world,” the group said.
ARSA expressed gratitude toward the Bangladesh government and urged refugees to “refrain from any wrongdoing” against authorities there, where close to a million Rohingya are living.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar, UN agencies say, after the insurgents attacked Myanmar security forces in August 2017, triggering an extensive military response.
Since then, the insurgents have been blamed for sporadic attacks in Rakhine State, including an ambush on a border guard post in January that wounded six.
“Our activities for our legitimate rights are ongoing against the Burmese terrorist government and its genocidal military,” the group’s statement said, adding that attacks would continue until basic rights were restored.
The Myanmar military has rejected almost all accusations of rights abuses.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 4 min 3 sec ago
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.