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Rohingya rebels call one-month Myanmar ceasefire as exodus grows

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cox's Bazar: Rohingya militants in Myanmar, whose raids sparked an army crackdown that has seen nearly 3,00,000 Muslim Rohingya flee to Bangladesh, today declared a unilateral ceasefire but the government said it would not negotiate with "terrorists".

The United Nations said 2,94,000 bedraggled and exhausted Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since the militants' attacks on Myanmar security forces in neighbouring Rakhine state on August 25 triggered a major military backlash.

Bangladesh's foreign minister said today that "genocide" was being waged in Rakhine state.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya 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 militant 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.

International aid programmes in Rakhine have been severely curtailed over safety concerns due to the fighting.

In addition to Rohingya, some 27,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus have also fled violence in northern Rakhine.

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 today.

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 army operations against ARSA led to mass killing of civilians and the burning of villages, sending them across the border. Mainly Buddhist Myanmar does not recognise its stateless Muslim Rohingya community, labelling them "Bengalis".

Bangladesh foreign minister A.H. Mahmood Ali accused Myanmar of running a "malicious propaganda" campaign to term the Rohingya as "illegal migrants from Bangladesh" and the militants as "Bengali terrorists".

"Should all people be killed? Should all villages be burnt? It is not acceptable," he told reporters after briefing diplomats in Dhaka today.

"The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide," he said.

Members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gathered in Kazakhstan's capital Astana today expressed "serious concern about recent systematic brutal acts committed by the armed forces" in Myanmar, calling for international monitors to be accepted into the country.

India's foreign ministry called for an immediate end to the violence, urging the situation "be handled with restraint and maturity".

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