Rohingya rebels call one-month ceasefire

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Rohingya militants in Myanmar, whose raids sparked an army crackdown that has seen nearly 300,000 Muslim Rohingya flee to Bangladesh, on Sunday declared a unilateral ceasefire but the government declared it would not negotiate with “terrorists”.
The United Nations said 294,000 bedraggled and exhausted Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since the militants’ attacks on Myanmar security forces in neighbouring Rakhine state on August 25 sparked a major military backlash.
Tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine after more than a fortnight without shelter, food and water.
“The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) hereby declares a temporary cessation of offensive military operations,” the group
said in a statement on its Twitter account.
It urged “all humanitarian actors” to resume aid delivery to “all victims of humanitarian crisis irrespective of ethnic or religious background” during the one-month ceasefire until October 9.
In addition to Rohingya, some 27,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also fled violence in the northern part of Rakhine state.
ARSA called on Myanmar to “reciprocate this humanitarian pause” in fighting.
Myanmar, which has previously labelled ARSA as “terrorists”, appeared to reject the overture.
“We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists,” Zaw Htay, a senior government spokesman, tweeted late on Sunday.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has come in for strong international criticism over the military’s treatment of the Rohingya — including the alleged laying of mines along the border to prevent those who fled from returning.
Three Rohingya are reported to have been killed by a mine and others including children have been injured.
Rohingya refugees say the army operations against ARSA led to mass killing of civilians and the burning of hundreds of villages, sending them across the border.
International aid programmes in Rakhine have been severely curtailed, as the fighting tore through parts of the state.
India’s foreign ministry called for an immediate end to the violence, urging the situation “be handled with restraint and maturity”.
Thousands are arriving in Bangladesh each day, joining already overcrowded camps of Rohingya who have fled Myanmar over decades of troubles. The UN refugee agency UNHCR gave the latest figure of 294,000 for the new arrivals.
The UN has appealed for urgent donations of $77 million.
Bangladesh already hosts around 400,000 Rohingya from previous crises.
The Red Cross in Bangladesh welcomed the ceasefire pledge. — AFP