World

Militants declare one-month ceasefire

Rohingya group says it is to allow aid to reach the battered region

YANGON Rohingya militants, whose Aug 25 raids in Myanmar's Rakhine State sparked an army crackdown that has seen nearly 300,000 of the Muslim minority flee to Bangladesh, yesterday declared a unilateral one-month ceasefire.

"The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) hereby declares a temporary cessation of offensive military operations," it said in a statement on its Twitter handle Arsa_Official, adding it is to allow for humanitarian aid to reach the battered region.

The group urged "all humanitarian actors" to resume aid delivery to "all victims of humanitarian crisis irrespective of ethnic or religious background" during the ceasefire period, which runs until Oct 9.

It urged Myanmar to "reciprocate this humanitarian pause" in fighting, with huge numbers of displaced moving across Rakhine and many believed to be in desperate need of help.

Arsa launched coordinated raids on Aug 25 on around 30 police posts and state offices in northern Rakhine State. The kickback by security forces prompted the Rohingya exodus.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists killed villagers indiscriminately during their crackdown, setting fire to hundreds of villages.

In an area split by claim and counterclaim, ethnic Rakhine villagers accuse militants of murdering their civilians, while the government says fleeing Rohingya set fire to their own homes to foment fear and anti-state anger.

Arsa appears to have significantly grown in the last year despite remaining hopelessly outgunned against one of Asia's largest militaries, AFP reported.

Myanmar's army said it has killed nearly 400 militants so far, while some Rohingya refugees have complained they were forced to fight by Arsa.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) has appealed for aid to deal with the humanitarian crisis, Reuters reported.

The wave of traumatised refugees is "showing no signs of stopping", overwhelming agencies in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar region already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous spasms of conflict in Rakhine State, the UN said.

"It is vital that aid agencies... have the resources they need to provide emergency assistance to incredibly vulnerable people who have been forced to flee their homes and have arrived in Bangladesh with nothing," UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Robert Watkins said.

He said on Saturday that the agencies urgently needed US$77 million (S$104 million) to cope with the emergency.

The International Crisis Group said the strife is causing more than a humanitarian crisis, adding:

"It is also driving up the risks that the country's five-year-old transition from military rule will stumble, that Rohingya communities will be radicalised and that regional stability will be weakened." - AFP

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