Myanmar insurgents accused of recruiting Rohingya in Bangladesh camps

RFA Burmese
Myanmar insurgents accused of recruiting Rohingya in Bangladesh camps Rohingya gather to buy essentials at a market area in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, May 15, 2023.
Munir Uz Zaman/AFP

Myanmar Muslim insurgents have pressed about 500 Rohingya living in Bangladesh camps to join the war in their homeland where fighting between rival factions has intensified sharply in recent weeks, refugees told Radio Free Asia (RFA). 

Members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the smaller Rohingya Solidarity Organization have taken their fellow Muslim Rohingya from the camps for military training, said people living in the world’s largest camp in southeast Bangladesh.

RFA, a news service affiliated with BenarNews, could not reach either of the insurgent groups for comment nor authorities responsible for the camps in Bangladesh.

The reports, if confirmed, could herald intensifying conflict in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state where residents said the Myanmar junta has been pressing members of the persecuted Rohingya minority to help battle one of Myanmar most powerful insurgent forces, the Arakan Army, which draws it support from the state’s majority ethnic Rakine Buddhist community.

“Everyone is running from the camp,” said one Rohingya who declined to be identified fearing for his safety.

“Children under the age of 18 are being caught and sold to those groups … it’s said they are being sent to the Burma side to reinforce in the battles, but I don’t know who they’re fighting against.”

The Rohingya, most of them between the ages of 14 and 30, had been detained in the camps between April 29 and May 8, said the refugee, who complained that Bangladesh authorities were doing nothing to stop the abductions, which averaged at about one per household.

ARSA fighters attacked a string of Myanmar government border posts in 2017, triggering a sweeping crackdown by the Myanmar army that forced about 740,000 Rohingya in Rakhine state to flee to safety in Bangladesh. Refugee camps in and around Cox’s Bazar are home to about 1 million Rohingya.

The rebel force, which is seeking self-determination, surged in strength in the wake of that violence and is now one of Myanmar’s main groups fighting junta forces to end military rule.

 “These are terrorist organizations,” another refugee said of the two groups whose members he said came at night. “Even 12- or 14-year-old children were among those arrested.”

Rohingya villagers living in Myanmar appear increasingly at risk as the junta army and the Arakan insurgents battle it out.

Since the Arakan Army stepped up its attacks on the military in November, both sides have been accused of recruiting or killing Rohingya from camps for internally displaced people in Rakhine state.

The ARSA has in the past been accused of violence against its own members living in Bangladesh and of faith-based massacres on Hindu villagers.


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