Rohingya ‘Army’ stresses right to self-defence in first statement

A militant group operating in Rakhine State has released a statement in which it has asserted its right to self-defence and denied links to any terrorist organisation, Associated Press newsagency has reported.

The document is said to be the first public statement from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which previously called itself the Faith Movement, or Harakah al-Yaqin, said the AP report from Bangkok.

It said the statement, that issued 20 demands to the government aimed at protecting the rights of those who identify as Rohingya, was dated March 29 but released the previous day “by overseas sympathizers”.

The statement said the group “came forward to defend, salvage and protect Rohingya community in Arakan with our best capacities as we have the legitimate right under international law to defend ourselves in line with the principle of self-defence”.

AP also quoted the group’s statement as saying it does “not associate with any terrorist group in the world”.

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“We do not commit any form of terrorism against any civilian regardless of their religious and ethnic origin as we do not subscribe to the notion of committing terrorism for our legitimate cause,” it said.

The group also assured “the safety and wellbeing of all ethnic communities, their places of worship and properties” in Rakhine.

In a December report, the International Crisis Group revealed that Harakah al-Yaqin was the militant group behind the deadly attacks on border posts in northern Rakhine in October. The subsequent counterinsurgency operation by the security forces led to widespread accusations of extrajudicial killings, torture and rape, and more than 75,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

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