NAYPYITAW — The Myanmar Army rejected a one-month unilateral ceasefire announced by a Muslim militant group in Rakhine State that comes to an end on Monday.
Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the militant group behind a series of attacks on 30 police stations in northern Rakhine, issued the truce on Sept. 10 to “enable humanitarian actors to assess and respond to the humanitarian crisis” in the state.
ARSA also urged the military to lay down its weapons after army clearance operations caused a mass exodus of self-identifying Rohingya, who have sought shelter in Bangladesh. More than 500,000 have fled although reports suggest the number is still rising.
The government deemed ARSA a terrorist outfit soon after the group’s Aug. 25 offensive. Government spokesperson Zaw Htay tweeted on the announcement of ARSA’s ceasefire that “we have no policy to negotiate with terrorists”—a sentiment echoed by defense minister Lt-Gen Sein Win in Naypyitaw on Monday.
“No government negotiates with terrorist groups. We dismiss them (ARSA),” he told media, adding that Myanmar did not recognize the ceasefire.
Asked about the current security situation in Rakhine, he said the army and home affairs ministry are collaborating to ensure rule of law and regional stability.
“But given the nature of the area, it is very large. So there may be destruction if they [ARSA] want to carry out attacks,” he said.
ARSA on Oct. 6 tweeted a statement saying the ceasefire will end at midnight on Oct. 9. The statement accused the military of blocking humanitarian access to Rakhine and added that ARSA is open to further ceasefires.
The self-identifying Rohingya Muslims who have fled northern Rakhine to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 have brought tales of rape, murder, and arson during Myanmar Army security operations the UN’s human rights body has labeled “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Myanmar has denied it is pursuing ethnic cleansing in the state and, according to Reuters, Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed on Monday to form a working group to commence plans for the repatriation of refugees.