Myanmar insurgents accused of recruiting Rohingya in Bangladesh camps

Children as young as 12 have been kidnapped from camps, refugees said.
By RFA Burmese
Myanmar insurgents accused of recruiting Rohingya in Bangladesh camps Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s Kutupalong camp on May 15, 2023.

Myanmar Muslim insurgents have pressed about 500 Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh to join the war in their homeland where fighting between rival factions has intensified sharply in recent weeks, refugees told Radio Free Asia.  

Members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the smaller Rohingya Solidarity Organization have taken their fellow Muslim Rohingya refugees from the camps for military training, said people living in the world’s largest camp in southeast Bangladesh.

RFA could not reach either of the insurgent groups for comment nor authorities responsible for the camps in Bangladesh.

The reports, if confirmed, could herald intensifying conflict in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State where residents say the Myanmar junta has been pressing members of the persecuted Rohingya minority to help battle one of Myanmar most powerful insurgent forces, the Arakan Army, which draws it support from the state’s majority ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community.

“Everyone is running from the camp,” said one Rohingya refugee who declined to be identified fearing for his safety.

“Children under the age of 18 are being caught and sold to those groups … it’s said they are being sent to the Burma side to reinforce in the battles but I don’t know who they’re fighting against.”

The refugees had been detained in the camps between April 29 and May 8, most of them between the ages of 14 and 30, said the refugee, who complained that Bangladesh authorities were doing nothing to stop the abductions, which averaged at about one young man per household.

ARSA fighters attacked a string of Myanmar government border posts in 2017, triggering a sweeping crackdown by the Myanmar army that sent some one million Rohingya villagers fleeing to safety in Bangladesh.

The rebel force, which is seeking self-determination in the state, surged in strength in the wake of that violence and is now one of Myanmar’s main groups fighting junta forces to end military rule.

 “These are terrorist organizations,” another refugee said of the two groups whose members he said came at night to press-gang people. “Even 12 or 14-year-old children were among those arrested.”

Rohingya villagers still living in Myanmar appear increasingly at risk as the junta army and the Arakan insurgents battle it out.

Since the Arakan Army stepped up its attacks on the military in November, both sides have been accused of recruiting or killing Rohingya from camps for internally displaced people in Rakhine State.

The ARSA has in the past been accused of violence against its own members living in Bangladesh and of faith-based massacres on Hindu villagers.

Nearly one million refugees live in the camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, according to the latest U.N. figures. 

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn.


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