Rohingya insurgent group declares temporary ceasefire

After more than two weeks of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state, the insurgent group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, declared in a statement Saturday a "temporary cessation of offensive military operations" for one month to enable aid groups to respond to the "humanitarian crisis" that is currently unfolding in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

The ceasefire would begin on Sunday, the statement said.

At least 290,000 ethnic Rohingyas have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August 25 after escaping violence in Rakhine, Vivian Tan, the UNHCR regional press officer, said Saturday.

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Myanmar, said Friday that at least 1,000 people had been killed in the violence over the past two weeks, though she said that figure is "very likely an underestimate."

"Figures are difficult to verify because of lack of access to the affected areas," she said.

The Myanmar government said 421 people had died.

The Rohingya are considered to be among the world's most persecuted people. The predominantly Buddhist Myanmar considers them Bangladeshi but Bangladesh says they're Burmese.

The government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, blames terrorists for starting the recent violence.

Rohingya militants killed 12 security officers in border post attacks almost two weeks ago, according to state media.

In response, the military intensified "clearance operations," driving thousands of people from their homes.

Satellite photos released by Human Rights Watch show entire villages torched to the ground in clashes between Myanmar's armed forces and local militants.

In northern Rakhine state there are reports of at least another 30,000 Rohingyas trapped in hilly terrain without basic supplies of food, water or medicine, according to activists.

Cessation of military operations

ARSA's statement on Saturday urges humanitarian aid to all victims of the "humanitarian crisis" in Rakhine, "irrespective of their ethnic of religious background."

It also calls on the government of Myanmar to cease all military offensive operations and participate in assisting the victims.

The ceasefire will be in place through October 9, according to the statement.

The U.S. Department of State said Saturday it is "very concerned" about the violence unfolding in the region, but stopped short of criticizing the country's government or its de facto leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The State Department is working with international partners, including the Office of the United Nations' refugee agency, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration, to provide emergency assistance for the displaced, the statement said.

Desmond Tutu begs Suu Kyi to help

As the humanitarian crisis in South Asia continued to grow, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote to his fellow Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, begging her to stop the violence.

"I am ... breaking my vow of silence on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya," he wrote in an open letter, posted on his official Twitter.

Suu Kyi, the de facto ruler of Myanmar as state counselor, has repeatedly come under criticism for her lack of action to help the Rohingya, a stark contrast to her previous image as a champion of human rights.

Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied accusations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya, and in April denied to the BBC that ethnic cleansing was taking place.

Some observers point out that the Rohingya issue is so heated in Myanmar that Suu Kyi would lose her popularity, and eventually possibly her position, if she backed the ethnic minority.

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic-minority group that has lived as a people in Myanmar for centuries.

They have been raped, tortured and killed. They have been crowded on boats, ping-ponged between nations that don't want them. They have been forced into labor and have no rights to their land.

Today, more than a million of them live in the country, most in the western coastal state of Rakhine, where they make up around a third of the population. They speak their own language, which isn't recognized by the state.

There are regular clashes between the Rohingya and the country's security forces, as well as other ethnic groups in Rakhine, which are predominantly Buddhist. Rohingya militant groups are often involved in the clashes.

This BBSNews article was syndicated from News | WPLG, and written by News | WPLG. Read the original article here.