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Myanmar’s Rohingya Insurgency issues detailed list of demands this week that struck a far more pragmatic note

A detailed list of demands was issued this week that struck a far more pragmatic note while describing the use of violence in the past as self-defense

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Rohingya
Rohingya refugees collect aid supplies including food and medicine, sent from Malaysia, at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 15, 2017, VOA
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Yangon, March 30, 2017: The Rohingya Muslim insurgency, whose sneak attacks in October killed nine border guard officers in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, issued a detailed list of demands this week that struck a far more pragmatic note while describing the use of violence in the past as self-defense.

Ata Ullah, the commander of the Faith Movement, now rebranded as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), signed the March 29 list, which has been verified and seems to have been timed to the anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi’s first year in power. Arakan is another name for Rakhine.

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A new presentation

In a preamble to the 20 demands, the ARSA said it does not associate with any terrorist organizations, eschews attacks against civilians and religious minorities, and wants to state “loud and clear” that its “defensive attacks” are only aimed at the “oppressive Burmese regime.” They said they would support international peacekeeping troops in the state.

Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won elections in late 2015 and swore in its president, Htin Kyaw, one year ago today. Suu Kyi, barred from the presidency by the 2008 military-drafted constitution, assumed the roles of foreign minister and state counselor. But the military still controls 25 percent of parliament and three key ministries.

By far the most polished and level-headed presentation of the group’s goals, the list stands in stark contrast to grainy YouTube videos posted in the days after the attack, which showed men holding guns and reading off declarations in a forest hideout.

Among other things, the demands include calls for political representation, citizenship rights, access to relief aid, education opportunities, freedom of movement and religion, the return of property, the ability to participate in trade and commercial activities, and the return of Rohingya refugees.

“It’s significant they deny connections to terrorist organizations, deny targeting civilians, and speak mostly of rights-based objectives,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of the NGO Fortify Rights, in an email. “We have no evidence that the group is well-trained, well-financed, or well-organized, but it’s clear they aren’t going anywhere.”

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Muslim insurgencies began in 1940s

Since Myanmar became independent in 1948, Muslim insurgencies in Rakhine have emerged under different political contexts over the decades, a reflection of self-determination sought by members of other faiths and ethnic groups across the country. Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as one of its many ethnic groups, denies them citizenship and has pushed them out of the political sphere.

The International Crisis Group said in a report last year that the Faith Movement was formed around 2012 after inter-communal violence in Rakhine killed hundreds and sent more than 120,000 Rohingya into IDP camps in the state capital Sittwe, where they remain today. Its leaders are centered in the Rohingya diaspora in Saudi Arabia, the report said.

Accusations of atrocities

As part of the hunt for militants in the wake of the October attacks, Myanmar’s armed forces have been accused of numerous atrocities, including rape and arson. An estimated 1,000 people have been killed.

The government has vehemently denied the more serious of the accusations, but mounting testimonies pushed the United Nations Human Rights Council to green light a fact-finding mission last week. It is not clear whether the U.N. will gain access.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and the area of the state where the attacks occurred remains under lockdown except for rare visits and supervised tours.

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A hard line by the Myanmar military

Zaw Htay, a spokesman for the president’s office, did not immediately return requests for comment on the Rohingya demands. But Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Min Aung Hlaing this week gave an indication of how the government will view the demands of the ARSA and the prospect of a U.N. probe.

At the annual Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, the general called the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

“We have already let the world know that we don’t have Rohingya in our country,” he said, according to reports of his speech.

Two senior U.N. officials working among the Rohingya refugees said more than 1,000 Rohingya might have been killed during the four-month security operation. However, Myanmar presidential spokesman Zaw Htay has previously said fewer than 100 people had been killed during the operation. (VOA)

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Rohingya influx is a threat to common security of the entire region

India has spent Rs 19.14 crore to create the infrastructure for the third International Internet Gateway in Agartala to get the 10-gigabit bandwidth from Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited.

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The Rohingya influx from Myanmar to Bangladesh is a serious common security challenge for the entire region, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Harsh Vardhan Shringla said here.
Rohingya Refugees, wikimedia commons

The Rohingya influx from Myanmar to Bangladesh is a serious common security challenge for the entire region, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Harsh Vardhan Shringla said here.

“Rohingya influx from Rakhine state of Myanmar to Bangladesh is a serious and common security challenge not only for Bangladesh but for the entire region,” Shringla told IANS during an interview.

“Bangladesh has engaged itself to address the issue. They have taken up the issue with the UN. The Bangladesh government is also working through multilateral agencies besides bilateral negotiations with Myanmar.

“Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate the Rohingya Muslims. This is a humanitarian crisis even though the issue posed a common security challenge not only for Bangladesh but for all the countries of the region.”

Over 1.15 million registered Rohingya have been residing in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh, known as the Cox’s Bazar region, after they fled Rakhine to escape a military crackdown on their villages last August.

To a question about extremist activities in Bangladesh, the visiting Indian envoy said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pursued a zero-tolerance policy on terrorism.

“After the terror attack in Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in July 2016, law and order agencies have been active against terror activities. No major incident has taken place since. The issue cannot be resolved overnight. This is a continuous process,” Shringla said.

"Rohingya influx from Rakhine state of Myanmar to Bangladesh is a serious and common security challenge not only for Bangladesh but for the entire region," Shringla told IANS during an interview.
Bangladesh Map, Pixabay

The High Commissioner came here on Thursday and held a series of meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Governor Tathagata Roy and other senior officials.

The visiting diplomat during his meeting with Deb discussed various issues like connectivity, people to people contact, hassle free movement of Indians to Bangladesh, trade and economic activities.

The Indian envoy said that Bangladesh has been promoting peace and security not only within its territory but ensuring regional and international peace and security.

Also Read: Sundarbans’ activists are against the upcoming NTPC power plant in the area 

About China’s rising cooperation with Bangladesh and investment in Dhaka, the diplomat said that India’s relations with Bangladesh were enduring and sustainable.

“India’s relationship and partnership with Bangladesh was based on cooperation, mutuality of benefit and respect for each other. People to people contact is very important,” Shringla said.

The High Commissioner said that 111 agreements have been signed between India and Bangladesh in the last ten years in different sectors. India has given $8 billion in three Lines of Credit to Bangladesh.

According to the envoy, total trade between the two countries in 2016-17 was $7.5 billion while $3.3 billion worth Indian investment proposals are registered with the Bangladesh government.

He said that India is currently supplying 660 MW of power to Bangladesh from West Bengal and Tripura.

India has spent Rs 19.14 crore to create the infrastructure for the third International Internet Gateway in Agartala to get the 10-gigabit bandwidth from Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited.

For this, an optical fiber cable link has been established between Akhaura (along Agartala) and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

Regarding the 2019 Bangladesh parliamentary elections next year, the Indian envoy said it was the country’s internal matter.

The Rohingya influx from Myanmar to Bangladesh is a serious common security challenge for the entire region, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Harsh Vardhan Shringla said here.
Representational Image, Pixabay

“Bangladesh has a vibrant democracy like ours. The country is holding periodic elections. We look forward to a very free and fair process of election in Bangladesh.”

He said that India-Bangladesh relations were based on common history, language, culture besides a common border of over 4000 km.

“Today we are enjoying the best ever relations. During the past 10 years, relations have improved enormously. Cooperation, friendship and partnership are beneficial for both the countries.

“The countries have invested significantly to develop infrastructure along the borders to promote trade among the two neighbors. The border infrastructure is being further developed to enhance trade and economic activities between the two nations.

“Currently 36 land customs stations (LCS) are operational along the India-Bangladesh border. Further upgradations were being done along the Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura besides West Bengal borders,” he added.

Shringla said that to further improve the ongoing bus services between Dhaka, Kolkata, Agartala, Shillong and Guwahati, more steps would be taken to make the bus services more effective as it is inexpensive for people of both the countries.

Five Indian states – West Bengal (2,216 km), Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) share the 4,096-km border with Bangladesh. (IANS)