Experts Reject Claims of ‘Rohingya Mujahideen’ Insurgency

A radical Muslim website distributed 28 photos purportedly showing Rohingya insurgents in Arakan State. But veteran Burma journalist Bertil Lintner says the photo was taken in Bangladesh many years ago. (Photo: www.arrahmah.com)

RANGOON — Regional security experts say it is possible that some militant Rohingyas have sought support from Indonesian hardline Muslim organizations, but they dismiss claims that an armed Rohingya insurgency is under way in western Burma’s Arakan State.

The experts reacted to recent reports on radical Islamic websites stating that a cleric and military commander of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) have met with hardline Indonesian civil society organizations to request funding, weapons and military training for an armed struggle.

The RSO members visited a rally of the Forum Umat Islam in central Jakarta on June 19, with the military commander Abu Shafiyah reportedly saying, “We need the Mujahideen from Indonesia to train and supply the Mujahideen in their training camp in Rohingya [sic], especially in bomb making,” according to one English-language radical Muslim blog.

Another website, called Arrahmah.com, posted 28 photos last week purportedly showing 300 “Rohingya Mujahideen” fighters receiving military training at a camp in northern Arakan State.

Sidney Jones, an Indonesia-based security analyst with the International Crisis Group, said it was likely that the supposed RSO members spoke at the Forum Umat Islam rally. “This is not a rumor, hundreds of people were there to hear them speak,” she added.

Jones said the Forum Umat Islam is not a Jihadist terrorist organization but a registered advocacy organization with a radical pro-Islamic agenda, adding that it sometimes engages in attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia.

Such Indonesian groups have thousands of members and have mounted an aggressive public response to the Rohingya issue in order to bolster their popularity in the Muslim-majority country.

The Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority, have suffered decades of persecution in Burma. During deadly clashes with local Buddhist communities last year, about 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, were forced to flee their homes and 192 people were killed.

Shwe Maung, a ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party member, rejected the claims that the photos showed RSO fighters in his region. “There is not a square meter without Nasaka [border guard] forces in northern Arakan,” said the MP, who represents the Muslim-majority Maungdaw Township in northern Arakan.

Bertil Lintner, a veteran journalist who has written extensively about insurgencies in Burma, said it was “very possible” that the RSO had been seeking support from Islamic militants abroad, adding that the group had worked closely with the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party in Bangladesh for years.

Lintner said, however, that the published photos did not show an RSO fighting force in Arakan State. “The pictures are genuine but old and were taken near Ukhia between Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf in Bangladesh. The RSO has never had any armed presence inside Burma,” he wrote in an email.

Lintner said many of the pictured fighters were not from Burma, but from Jamaat-e-Islami’s youth wing, which used the RSO camp for training many years ago. This youth wing has carried out bomb attacks and religiously motivated assassinations in Bangladesh in the past.

The RSO is a militant Rohingya organization founded in the early 1980s after Burma’s military launched violent operations in Arakan State that pushed about 250,000 Rohingyas over the border into Bangladesh.

It was a relatively small insurgency group with a few camps in Bangladesh near the Burma border and did not pose a serious threat to the authorities in Arakan. In 2001, Bangladesh authorities cracked down on the group, and little is known about its activities since.

“As far as we know the RSO still exists with three factions but none have been militarily active for years, and certainly not in Arakan State with the current heavy presence of the Nasaka and the Burmese army,” said Chris Lewa, who heads the Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group.

Bangladesh’s current government, she added, would not support the RSO.

RSO founder Muhammad Yunus, a medical doctor from Arakan, currently leads one RSO faction. He denied that his faction had sought support from radical groups in Indonesia.

“I have no armed activities since long and now I am actively involved in political activities,” Yunus told The Irrawaddy in an email, adding that he had joined the recent Arakan Rohingya Union conference in Saudi Arabia, where some Rohingya representatives reportedly gathered to discuss a political solution to the Arakan crisis.

Abu Tahay, a Rohingya leader and chairman of the Union Nationals Development Party in Burma, dismissed the claims of a militant Rohingya insurgency and said radical Indonesian groups were abusing the Arakan crisis to advance their own domestic goals.

“This is being created by bad persons taking advantage of the Rohingyas’ problems,” he said.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch, said Indonesian radical Muslim groups “have been milking the Rohingya issue for everything it’s worth, seeking to use the misery and discrimination faced by the Rohingya as a recruiting tool for their own rights-violating, violent radicalism.”

He warned that Arakanese Buddhist nationalists in turn would use the unconfirmed reports of links between Islamic militants and the Rohingya to further fuel anti-Muslim sentiments in the state.

“Sadly, both the [Indonesian Muslim groups] and the extremist Rakhine [Arakan] response for ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya are two sides of the same coin of hatred and violence. Both should be condemned by the Indonesia and Burma governments,” he said.


34 Responses to Experts Reject Claims of ‘Rohingya Mujahideen’ Insurgency

  1. As far as I know Chris Lewa’s Arakan Project is not a group. Arakan Project is just run by Chris Lewa alone. Once she told me that UN support her Rohingya advocacy work activities.

  2. Whether this current news is true or not, the history shows that those Chittagong Bengalis brought in by the British colonial government during it’s occupation and infiltrated by themselves into Myanmar thereafter had waged a war that lasted about 4 or 5 years starting 1947. Be ware, they didn’t use Rohingya rebellion at that time as the name was not coiled as their ethnic name which, in fact, is Bengalis, but under the name of Mujahideen.

    If the news were true, they are nothing, but digging their own graves!

    • Just because the name “Rohingyas” was not used at that time it doesn’t mean that they didn’t speak the Rohingya language. in the book published in 1799 by Buchanan, “Rohingya” was indicated as one of the languages of Burma.

      • There is no such Rohingya language at all. The language spoken by Kawtaw and Chittagong Bengalese were part and parcel the same. Kyoto University graduate student has thoroughly studied ethno-linguistic issue of the areas and found out it was the same except for a few local vocabulary. You guys are just opportunists to grab our land. That’s all, but we won’t accept any of you anymore.

    • nyuntshwe587, you are completely wrong in your statement that the Rohingyas were brought by the British to Arakan. The reality is Muslim troops went from Gaud in around 1439 to help reinstate a Buddhist King there who was overthrown by his own nephew as the King of Arakan. Rohingyas are the descendents of mostly this group of people.

      While the Kingdom of Bengal never tried to take over Arakan by taking advantage of the presence of its people there, it was Burma (Bamans) who took over Arakan in the late eighteen century. Rohingyas are not foreigners in Arakan, but the Burmese are. Burmese are occupying a country that belong rightfully to the Arakanese only.

      • Hey, Shaikh, just shut up! Ask your step father British government if what I said was true or not. Every historian knows this. It was such a plain fact and piles of evidence. Rohiingya was never mentioned by the British colonial government and it’s scholars who were always experts of the regions and cultures of the places they occupied. You may talk your version of distorted legend to your family and even they won’t believe you in their hearts and mind. Be quiet now!

        • Bloody nonsense! you shut up!Ask your real father British what you said was true or not.

          • You better ask your mother’s playboy and your unclaimed father, British, if it ever used that Rohingya title to any illegal intruders bengalis thieves, even once when they robbed and ruled our country. We fought back them, but you were armed and trained by your mothers master British and sent you to fight against Japanese army and us in and around 1943 to 1945. However, you were cowards and instead of fighting the Japanese, you staged a genocide killing tens of thousands Rakhine in Butheedaung, Maungdaw areas to occupy and confiscate their lands and properties. All unbiased and true historians know about this affair.

    • It is better to dig grave in own land than to assimilate to others’ culture and religion.

  3. If it is true then worrying news it is. Hope it doesn’t lead like moro liberation of Phillipine type
    campaign. In anywhere if the minorities get suppressed then they are compelled to arm themselves to defend themselves snd their families.

  4. Yes, as Mr. Phil Robertson said, the Arakanese Buddhist nationalists in turn would use the unconfirmed reports of links between Islamic militants and the Rohingya to further fuel anti-Muslim sentiments in the state. heck, even non Arakanese Buddhists (college educated and can read English and get proper news) that I personally use that same excuse to justify the massacreof the Rohingyas. It is sickening to have known such people in my life.

  5. Rohingyas(akin to Bengalis) form a minor part of the Muslim population of Myanmar(Bamar Muslims)Rohingyas have from Myanmar day of Independence, been involved in Mujahid activity in Yakhine state and involved in seccession and joining then East Pakistan.
    They have never shown any loyalty to Myanmar as that shown by Bamar Muslims – as such in the interest of the majority Bamar Muslims, any talk of inteference of Indonesian and or fundamentalist from any Muslim organisations must be condemned by the majority Bamar Muslims. Myanmar is making every effort to rebuild confidence with ethnic brethren and requires Bamar Muslims to follow suit.
    NYI NYUT YE AUNG BA ZE

    • So you want to live in the past (of a few misled Rohingyas did) instead of accepting what the Rohingyas have been trying to do. i.ee live side by side with the Rakines.

      Google and read these 2 articles if you want to be informed:

      Burmese invasion of Arakan and the rise of non-Bengali settlements …

      When History Is Twisted, Humanity Loses – OpEd Eurasia Review

      • The two articles are all lies and cheats … full of crap.

        • Nice try taking a Muslims name to spread propaganda. D you even have a clue that Arakan was apart of Bengal in ancient time? the inhabitants of Arakan used to look like the people form the other side until the oriental looking people started arriving to the region.

    • BTW, how is what the Rohingyas tried to do after independence different from what Karen, kachin, etc. tried to do? Who would want to live under bamar control when historically, they didn’t live under the Bamar majority control?
      As for not shouing

      They have never showing any loyalty to Myanmar, why should they when Arakan was forcefully annexed by Bodawpaya in 1784 and depopulated Arakan to 50% of its previous population?

  6. You said it. All Arakanese extremists, the Rohinja extremists and the Indonesian Mujaheddeens must be condemned by all governments and peoples. Leave Myanmar alone to solve its own problem, if no genuine moral and material assistance can be given to the poor peoples on both sides of the divide. Some Myanmar may be bad, but it isa civilized country.

    • How come the majority of your *civilized* country of Burma condoned the massacre of the Rohingyas with excuses after excuses including democracy groups inside and outside of Burma, BLATANTLY ignoring human rights ?

      • Is there anything as ‘human rights’ for illegal intruders? Ask the US for Mexican illegal immigrants. And yes, to Saudi Arabia, if they grant citizenship to Rohingyas because they are born there.

  7. How come the super-civilized greatest countries on earth that profess islam as state religion denies all forms of human rights to non-Muslims? What if Burma follows their path to some extent?

  8. Some idiots hide their real name and uses Muslim names and commenting negative about Islam. Hope peace prevails in Burma. Military is still running Burma behind the scenes. Beware.

  9. Dissident groups, opponents of governments, politicians in need of publicity, need a cause or a mission, and have always used misinformation, lies, exaggerations, to get funds, then used the funds for personal gain and advancement. That’s politics.

  10. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and nearby Cos’x Bazar district in Bangladesh, bordering Burma, there have been reports of Rohingya armed groups in full uniforms moving around even in daylight. Though there may be some of the local Bangladeshi islamists militants with them, these rohingya thugs have been reported for robbery and rape of Buddhist women as recent as June 2013. Now if these experts have no idea of these facts, they can come and check for themselves, and my request to them would be to please make comments after proper inquiry and touch with the grassroots situation. Even the pages of the Irrawaddy are not sufficient for covering all the information.

  11. Well I feel very sad for those rohingya people who I know for sure are currently being mistreated in Burma, but the truth is its not just the rohingyas, there are at countless other groups in those neighboring countries who are being persecuted just as badly. We should all condemn these acts because of bad moral injustice,

    @Mandyswe ” Do you see those country killing people, destroying the properties of helpless people, and and starving them? ” What do you mean???News of Muslims in your neighboring countries such as Indonesia,Bangladesh, Pakistan(all Muslim countries) persecuting, oppressing, destroying temples and churches, snatching away their land are very rampant and common. Do you even follow the news? I having personally seen and experienced such oppression can assure you Rohingyas are not the only persecuted groups in south asia.

  12. ‘Taliban opens camp in Myanmar’
    News Desk, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2013-08-16 19:40:21.0 BdST Updated: 2013-08-16 20:04:06.0 BdST

    Over two dozen high-definition images reportedly published in an Urdu-language Internet forum suggest the Taliban has successfully recruited Rohingya Muslims, Bangladeshis, and Indonesian nationals and are training them in an undisclosed camp in Myanmar, a report by Asian News International (ANI) says.

    The images that come with Urdu captions were posted on the ‘Bab-e-Islam Jihadi Internet Forum’ and sourced from a Facebook account on July 12, according to a leading Washington-based research institute, Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

    The institute specialises in translating and monitoring radical Islamist media materials and networks operating in local languages through the social media.

    The Bab-e-Islam Internet Forum images show the outfit engaged in combat training in Burma, but the camp’s exact location is not mentioned.

    A photograph of one of the trainees offering prayers has appeared in the website, Arrahmah.com.

    Other pictures reportedly show men with blurred faces, presumably high-ranking Taliban commanders, conducting the training.

    JTTM has translated an accompanying photo caption into Urdu as saying, “This new jihadi force has entered Burma, Myanmar, under the leadership of Commander Abu Sufiya and Abu Arif.”

    The caption also claimed that these recruits recently destroyed two Burmese military combat vehicles, killing 17 soldiers.

    It also claims the recruits beheaded three Buddhists — a priest among them — who, it says, were responsible for slaying Muslims.

    Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have made international headlines over the past year as they suffered communal attacks inflicted by the country’s majority Buddhists.

    Hundreds of ethnic Rohingya Muslims were butchered and over thousands have been displaced.

    The images show around 100 to 200 individuals in military fatigues taking part in a shooting practice.

    The Washington-based research institute says the Urdu version of the Ansarullah jihadi forum in Arabic mainly functions via the Bab-e-Islam forum.

  13. It is work of Arakan Liberation Party ( ALP )led by Buddhist Group which has link with RNDP party. These group demanded ARAKAN ARMY at Kyakpyu Conference recently and making now conspiracy so t5hat to achieve they goal to form Arakan Army. Next step is to establiush a new Kingdom of Arakan.

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