COX'S BAZAR (Bangladesh) • Myanmar yesterday rebuffed a ceasefire declared by Muslim Rohingya militants to enable the delivery of aid to thousands of displaced people in the violence-racked state of Rakhine, declaring simply that it did not negotiate with terrorists.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) had announced the truce in a statement on its Twitter handle @ARSA-Official in which it 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 also urged Myanmar to "reciprocate this humanitarian pause" in fighting.
The Twitter page is often the first to publish Arsa statements or direct readers to videos. Yesterday's statement was signed by Ata Ullah, who purportedly commands the militants from jungle bases straddling the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
Better known locally as Harakah al-Yaqin (Faith Movement), Arsa launched coordinated raids using hundreds of militants on Aug 25 on about 30 police posts and state offices in northern Rakhine state. The kickback by security forces prompted the Rohingya exodus.
In an area split by claims and counter-claims, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists killed villagers indiscriminately during their crackdown, setting fire to hundreds of homes.
Ethnic Rakhine villagers, however, accuse Rohingya militants of murdering their people, while the government claims fleeing Rohingyas set fire to their own homes to foment fear and anti-state anger.
Arsa's declaration of a truce drew no formal response from the military or the government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
However, the spokesman for Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Twitter: "We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists."
Myanmar says its security forces are carrying out clearance operations to defend against Arsa, which the government has declared a terrorist organisation.
The army says that it has killed nearly 400 militants so far, while some Rohingya refugees have complained they were forced to fight by Arsa.
The United Nations has, in the meantime, appealed for aid to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Bangladesh.
The wave of hungry and traumatised refugees is "showing no signs of stopping", overwhelming agencies in the Cox's Bazar region already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous spasms of conflict in Myanmar's Rakhine state, the UN said.
"It is vital that aid agencies working in Cox's Bazar 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," said Mr Robert Watkins, the UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh.
He said in a statement late on Saturday that agencies urgently needed US$77 million (S$103 million) to cope with the emergency.
India yesterday joined the growing list of countries calling for an immediate end to the violence in Rakhine state while urging its ally, Myanmar, to act with restraint.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS