Jeopardizing Safety, Security Of Rohingya Refugees24 September 2019
Saleem Samad :
International rights groups have dubbed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as a rogue Islamic militant group, and responsible for series of crime against humanity in restive Rakhine State, Myanmar.
The ragtag radicalized militant's recruits from among Rohingyas under the leadership who were born and raised in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are creating law and order situation in the refugee camps in Bangladesh.
For decades, the Rohingya have experienced ethnic and religious persecution in Myanmar. The majority have escaped to Bangladesh. Tens of thousands have fled to other countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
ARSA remains a poorly equipped and trained force, able to do little in the way of waging a sustained campaign against Myanmar's security forces. Presently their primary goal is to consolidate power within the camps in Bangladesh, also in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) reported on 14 December 2016 that in interviews, the leaders of ARSA claimed to have links to private individuals in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The ICG also claimed in an unconfirmed report that Rohingya villagers had been "secretly trained" by Afghan and Pakistani fighters.
In 2017, ARSA leader Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi stated in a video posted online that "our primary objective under ARSA is to liberate our people from dehumanizing oppression perpetrated by all successive Burmese (also known as Myanmar) regimes".
The group claims to be an ethnic-nationalist insurgent group and has denied allegations that they are Islamists, claiming they are secular and "have no links to terrorist groups or foreign Islamists".
However, ARSA follows many traditional Islamic practices such as having recruits swear an oath on the Quran, referring to their leader as an emir (head of state) and asking for fatwas (Islamic religious decrees or edicts) from foreign Muslim clerics.
London based Amnesty International after conducting interviews with refugees in Bangladesh and in Rakhine State confirmed that mass killings carried out by ARSA took place in a cluster of villages in northern Maungdaw Township at the time of its attacks on police posts in late August 2017. The findings also show ARSA was responsible for low-intensity violence against civilians.
Security experts believe that the plight of the Rohingyas in Rakhine State will further deteriorate with the continued activities of ARSA in the region. This will surely endanger the good intention of the Rohingya refugees repatriation to Myanmar.
There are real dangers associated with allowing the alleged oppression against the Rohingya to continue. Several experts have already predicted that if elements of threats are left unattended the region will come face to face with a very serious security crisis.
In the void have stepped Islamist civil society organizations that are now providing education, medical assistance, and food for the refugees. Bangladeshi Islamist groups, including hardline militant groups like Hefazat-e-Islam that have engaged in violence, have established over 1000 madrasas in the camps in Cox's Bazar and Bandarban.
ARSA is striving to consolidate its authority in the world's largest refugee camps in Bangladesh. Similarly efforts are visible in Malaysia and Indonesia. The militant outfit controls over the refugee camps not only gives them power and control over resources there but also gives them additional pressure when they "fundraise" amongst diaspora communities.
The militant outfit should be contained based on intelligence gatherings by security agencies. Their active involvement in madrasas teaching and reciting Quran is responsible for jeopardizing the safety and security of the Rohingyas in the camps. The threat perception of the refugees comes from non-combatant members of ARSA outfit.
(Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. Twitter @saleemsamad; Email: [email protected])