The Myanmar government on Tuesday pledged to crack down on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army a day after the Muslim militant group ended a temporary unilateral cease-fire in northern Rakhine state.
“The government declared ARSA a terrorist organization and is working on an investigation to find links to the terrorists,” Zaw Htay, director-general of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s office, told RFA’s Myanmar Service, referring to the group’s deadly attacks on police outposts on Aug. 25 and the military counteroffensive that led to a massive Rohingya exodus into Bangladesh.
“We are working to secure the region and coordinating with the Bangladeshi government on this issue, but we can’t say much about it to the media,” he said.
ARSA declared a monthlong cease-fire on Sept. 9 to allow humanitarian aid into the region, but it has accused the government of blocking much of it.
When asked if the government believes that ARSA will carry out other attacks, Zaw Htay said officials are assuming that the group will strike again because it is engaging in terrorism in northern Rakhine.
“ARSA is based in the conflict area and has been trying to spread terrorism in the region,” he said. “After its attacks, people fled from the region because of ARSA’s threats and out of concern for their safety.”
Zaw Htay’s statement contradicts accounts from some of the half-million Rohingya Muslims who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, who say they were pushed out by Myanmar army attacks that included rapes, killings and the burning of villages.
Kyaw Tint Swe, minister of the State Counselor’s Office, on Tuesday met with Rohingya trying to flee to Bangladesh along the border area and tried to dissuade them from leaving Myanmar, Zaw Htay said.
“They [ARSA] want the world to see that a lot of people have to flee, so they are still threatening Muslim people to flee to Bangladesh,” Zaw Htay said. “These terrorists highlighted this point, so that Myanmar received pressure from the international community.”
Kyaw Tint Swe, who was accompanied by a group of foreign diplomats and journalists on a state-sponsored trip, also visited conflict-torn Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships in northern Rakhine.
The minister told the residents of a Muslim community in Rathedaung not to flee, but rather to live peacefully where they are.
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