Rohingya rebels take to Twitter to blame murders on Myanmar military

Screenshot from a video posted by ARSA on YouTube.

A Twitter account that appears to be run by a member of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) posted a press release today to deny the group’s involvement in the killing of civilians in Rakhine State and to dismiss claims of terrorist links.

The statement accused the Myanmar government, particularly the Office of the State Counsellor, of disseminating “false, fabricated, and fake news” to harm the group’s “dignity and decency”.

Since ARSA (also known as Harakah al-Yaqin or Faith Movement) claimed responsibility for a series attacks on military and police installations in northern Rakhine State in October 2016, the Office of the State Counsellor has regularly blamed a series of murders and kidnappings in the area on the group, referring to them as “terrorists” and “violent attackers”.

The same Twitter user added in another tweet that the group holds the Myanmar military responsible for the killings.

The ARSA statement said the group was established “to defend, salvage, and protect the Rohingya community in Arakan” and that it has only carried out “defensive attacks” aimed at “the oppressive Burmese regime”.

“We have the legitimate right under international law to defend ourselves,” the statement said.

Among the group’s demands are political representation, freedom of movement and religion, the right of return for Rohingya refugees, and access to relief aid, markets, and education. (See a full list of demands here.)

The statement continued: “We do not commit any form of terrorism against any civilian regardless of their religious and ethnic origin.”

A December 2016 report by International Crisis Group claims ARSA leaders have links to private individuals in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and that Rohingya villagers have been “secretly trained” by Afghan and Pakistani fighters.

“We are well aware and conscious that both the Burmese government and the oppressive Burmese military regime are trying their best to tarnish the noble image of ARSA in order to create obstacles for us in seeking political, financial, technological, and logistics supports and assistances from the members of the international community,” the statement said.

ARSA has also publicly endorsed the establishment of a UN-led fact-finding mission to investigate claims of atrocities committed by the Myanmar military against Rohingya civilians, while the Myanmar government has refused to cooperate.

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