A look at the insurgency behind Myanmar attacks
Posted on August 31st, 2017

Courtesy Dhaka Trbune

Analysts blame Myanmar’s government for the conditions that led to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)’s creation

Armed with machetes and rifles, a ragtag band of insurgents comprised of members of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority launched unprecedented attacks last week, triggering fighting with security forces that has left more than 100 people dead and forced at least 18,000 to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh, reports the Associated Press.

Here’s a closer look at the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the group that claimed responsibility for the attacks:

The origins of ARSA

The group was formed last year by Rohingya exiles living in Saudi Arabia, according to the International Crisis Group, which detailed ARSA’s origins in a report last year. It is led by Attullah Abu Amar Jununi, a Pakistani-born Rohingya who grew up in Mecca, and a committee of about 20 Rohingya emigres. ICG says there are indications Jununi and others received militant training in Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan.

ARSA is believed to receive funding from the Rohingya diaspora and donors in Saudi Arabia, as well as other parts of the Middle East, ICG says.

Analysts blame Myanmar’s government for the conditions that led to the group’s creation. Successive governments in the predominantly Buddhist country have denied the Rohingya basic rights and citizenship, deeming most of them to be foreign invaders from Bangladesh, even though Rohingya have lived in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for generations. Bangladesh also rejects them.

The lack of a political solution to their plight, particularly after anti-Muslim violence in 2012 displaced more than 120,000 Rohingya, helped sow the seeds for armed rebellion. The disenfranchisement of Rohingya in the 2015 election, and a regional crackdown on human trafficking that cut off an escape by sea also left Myanmar’s Rohingya feeling boxed in.

The escalation of the violence

In ARSA’s first known operation, on October 9, 2016, hundreds of Rohingya men armed with knives, slingshots and rifles attacked three separate police posts in Rakhine state, killing nine officers.

The army responded with a savage counterinsurgency sweep that lasted months and, according to human rights groups, left entire villages burned to the ground. The United Nations accused security forces of gang-raping women and carrying out extrajudicial killings of children, even babies. The world body says some of the atrocities could amount to crimes against humanity.

The scale and scope of the latest violence is far greater. ARSA attacked at least two dozen police posts, and satellite imagery analysed by Human Rights Watch indicates homes were set ablaze as well, in an area about five times larger than what was burned in 2016.

An evolving message

When the group was first established, the insurgents called themselves the Harakah al-Yaqin, meaning Faith Movement.” In their first video, that name was overlaid with Arabic script, which helped fuel speculation they could be aligned with global terrorist groups.

Analysts say the group does not appear to have jihadist motivations, and ARSA has stated that it does not associate with terrorist organizations. In recent months, the group has tried to dispel that perception and bolster the argument that they are freedom fighters who took up arms only to defend their people, said David Mathieson, an independent analyst in Yangon, Myanmar.

The insurgents, who posts statements through a Twitter account, changed their name to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – Arakan is another word for the Rakhine region. And in a video statement released August 28, Jununi – standing beside two masked militants with assault rifles – described the insurgents as the guardians and protectors of the oppressed Rohingya,” claiming they were waging a defensive war with the brutal Burmese military regime.” It’s unclear how many fighters the group currently has.

After the latest attacks, Myanmar’s government has insisted they should only be referred to as extreme Bengali terrorists.”

Prospects for peace

It’s unclear how much support the insurgents have among the Rohingya population, which numbers about 1 million in Myanmar. Neelakantan said there are reports that ARSA has executed suspected informants as part of a brutal effort to boost the insurgent group’s influence and control.

Given the deadly military sweep that followed their attacks last year, ARSA must have known an even greater backlash would come this time, Neelakantan said.

They’re clearly harming their cause more than they are helping it,” she said. But if they wanted attention, they’re going to get it.”

The violence has already hardened both sides and deepened communal hatred. Mathieson said things will get worse before they get better. Once the killing starts, it’s hard to put that back in the box.”


5 Responses to “A look at the insurgency behind Myanmar attacks”

  1. Christie Says:

    Rohingiyas are not different to Indians in Ceylon.



    Rakhine State and the raging information war

    Two conflicts are raging in Rakhine State. One is on the ground and has claimed the lives of about 100 people since the August 25 terrorist attacks in Muangdaw and Buthidaung townships, while the second is in cyberspace and has intensified beyond all imagination. After the attacks, which happened a day after the Kofi Annan commission released its final report on Rakhine, the State Counsellor’s Office quickly came out with a statement strongly condemning the attack along with guidelines for the media in addressing the issues in Rakhine.

    National Security Adviser U Thaung Tun also gave a press conference and provided an official account of what occurred in the northern territory. The information relating to the incidents was well publicised throughout the world. Early headlines focused on international condemnation of the attacks on government positions and the resulting casualties. However, days after the attacks, the information flow began to ebb from government sources. While the government managed to arrange for a group of reporters from local and international media to cover the attacks, their access was limited.

    Then Yangon-based Civil Society Organisations(CSO) urged the government to allow them into the two troubled townships so they could assess the situation directly in the search for appropriate remedial responses……..
    In coming days, both media and CSO representatives should be allowed into the areas so they can make independent assessments. Without additional evaluation on the ground, the credibility of information and observations provided by the government or security forces could be at the low level. Obviously, to enter conflict areas all precautions must be taken to ensure safety.
    The other front is the conflict being fought in cyberspace. These days, the ubiquitous social media can do a lot of good and harm at the same time. Unsubstantiated rumours, biased information and fake news are common these days – not only on issues related to Rakhine. Extremist and terrorist organisations are well-versed in exploiting the unlimited potential of cyberspace to their advantage.
    The government and security forces must think outside the box as far as public diplomacy is concerned. Myanmar is no longer a dictatorship but a democracy, and the whole world is watching how the National League for Democracy, lead by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, would resolve the conflict in Rakhine.
    Media and CSO access to the conflict areas should be granted whenever there is a guarantee that safety measures are in place. To avoid media and CSO scrutiny on the ground is not a good option because it will allow extremists armed with high-tech resources to spread their message and dominate the public discussion of the situation in Rakhine State.
    To improve the awareness and understanding of the international community about Rakhine, all concerned authorities must be candid. In a world of interconnectivity and instant information, it is better to come clean at the first opportunity. That way, truthful information will prevail and help all stakeholders in the country have a thorough knowledge and appreciation of the government’s efforts to deploy preventive measure to provide-public-security. Without understanding and support, especially of homegrown narratives, the rest of the world will look elsewhere.

  3. Christie Says:

    Ceylon could not win the propaganda war and Myanmar will be the same. The so called Civil Society is no use when it comes to terrorists those financed and managed by foreign interests.

    Where are the SCSOs when it comes to similar issues in powerful countries like India in Kashmir.

  4. Ratanapala Says:

    Islamist Rohingyas don’t belong in Myanmar a Buddhist Country. They should go back to Bangla Desh to where they belong. World must not make any more excuses for breeding Muslims in non Muslim countries for they are not people who can co-exist with other communities. They are forever predatory communities intent on devouring land, cultures and causing untold miseries to non-muslims as taught to them in their Koran.

    Their intolerance is now seen by the very countries who foolishly allowed them sanctuary. Today the whole of Europe is under threat by these savages who hardly have any sympathy for the other. Whole countries, UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden just a few among others are under the Islamic threat. The politicians in these countries are afraid – simply because they are in teh pay of the rich Middle East countries. These traitor politicians are letting down their own for ‘ a few pieces of Silver’!

    It is heartening to see how Poland has stood up to the Islamist Invasion disregarding the bogus Human RIghts cries!

  5. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Ratanapala is 100% right. These mussies came from bangladesh and they should go back there or start practising the only true religion, Buddhism, in the world. These mussies slowly slowly crept into Mynmar, bred and bred
    uncontrollably and now want to make it a mussie country. The west will preach human rights for mussies now.
    Before long the same lot going to be under the cosh with the islamic breeding menace themselves since uk,
    france, germany, holland etc. etc. getting overwhelmed by the FASTEST BREEDING RELIGION. Town after town in these countries falling to the FASTEST BREEDING RELIGION.

    with their BABY MACHIINE WIVES BREED, BREED AND BREED. Then the whole place is awash with mussies. Then
    of course trouble starts as you have to fight for resources (Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection). If the place is mussies only, then they start killing each other. If the place is not all mussies, then they start killing the non-believers.

    It is the fault of their twisted religion. These religions of convenience don’t regard killing, lying, stealing etc.
    etc. as sins when all honest people regard them to be misdeeds. But with their twisted teachings mussies see things differently. They read back to front. Religion of Violence has copied some things from Buddhism. But mussies
    think Buddhism copied from the fastest breeding religion. That’s how their twisted minds are? They don’t think
    Buddhism is more than 1000 years older than the religion of Violence.

    The religion of violence is propagated by breeding only. Everywhere they go in the world, mayhem due to uncontrolled
    breeding. They breed, breed and breed and expect other people to solve their problems. When trouble starts where
    do the mussies head to? To non mussie countries of course! What do they do there? Start breeding like hell to make it a mussie country; mosque every corner to drive out non-believers, halal, hijab etc. etc. Mussies are a menace to
    the society. But today’s political correct world, nobody utters a vote for their votes/money. In another 20 or 30
    years the menace going to slowly disappear from the face of the earth with the demise of usage of petrolium
    once the electric car becomes the norm! It’s the nature. Nothing is permanent like Lord Buddha preached.

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