No sign of attacks by Rohingya militants in Myanmar as month-long ceasefire ends

Bangladeshi border guards standing watch as Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar make their way through a rice field after crossing the border in Palang Khali.
Bangladeshi border guards standing watch as Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar make their way through a rice field after crossing the border in Palang Khali.PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (REUTERS) - The Myanmar authorities said there was no sign of attacks by Rohingya Muslim militants on Tuesday (Oct 10) as a one-month insurgent ceasefire came to an end.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) announced the ceasefire from Sept 10 in order, they said, to facilitate aid deliveries to Rakhine state, where their attacks on security forces on Aug 25 triggered a ferocious government crackdown.

The government offensive in the north of Rakhine state has sent some 520,000 Rohingya civilians fleeing to Bangladesh and has drawn international condemnation and United Nations accusations of ethnic cleansing.

The government denies ethnic cleansing. It had rebuffed the insurgents' ceasefire, saying it did not negotiate with terrorists.

Myanmar says more than 500 people have been killed in the violence since late August, most of them insurgents.

Even before the government offensive, the small, lightly armed ARSA had only appeared capable of hit-and-run raids on security posts, unable to mount any sort of sustained challenge to the army.

The authorities had been on guard in the recent days and tightened security in the state capital of Sittwe as the end of the ceasefire approached, a state government spokesman said.

"We had information that the ARSA could attack but there have been no reports," spokesman Min Aung said early on Tuesday.

The insurgents said on Saturday they were ready to respond to any peace move by the government, even though the ceasefire was ending at midnight on Monday.

They also reiterated their demand for rights for 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.

Instead, Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants with freedoms restricted and rights denied, and are derided by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, and much of the wider popular in Myanmar, which has seen a surge in Buddhist nationalism in recent years.

Thousands more Rohingya villagers have arrived in Bangladesh this week in a new surge of refugees, now also driven by fears of starvation and telling of bloody attacks by Buddhist mobs on people trekking towards the border.

Villagers in Rakhine said food was running out because rice in the fields was not ready for harvest and the state government had closed village markets and restricted the transport of food, apparently to cut supplies to the militants.

"While the Myanmar military has engaged in a campaign of violence, there is mounting evidence that Rohingya women, men and children are now also fleeing the very real threat of starvation," rights group Amnesty International said.

The government has cited worry about food as one of the reasons people have been giving for leaving, but a senior state government official on Monday dismissed any suggestion of starvation.