Authorities are to investigate reports that hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have been undergoing military training to carry out terrorist acts against Buddhist communities in western Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state, a government spokesman said Friday.
Myanmar’s deputy minister Ye Htut said the government would look into a report by Singapore’s Straits Times which said two Rohingya leaders had recently traveled to Indonesia to enlist the support of hardline Islamic organizations to fund the Myanmar group.
“The government will and has been working for the security of all of its citizens,” Ye Htut told RFA’s Myanmar service.
“The nation’s security organizations will investigate not only the reports of these Rohingya military practices, but all reports [of terrorism].”
He said he was not at liberty to discuss which reports the government found credible and which were considered non-threatening as they were matters of national security.
The Straits Times reported Thursday that Rohingya cleric Abu Arif and militant commander Abu Shafiyah, linked to the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) had met with unnamed groups in Indonesia seeking more fighters, guns, cash and bomb-making instructors.
It reported that the two men had claimed that the group of 300 Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where two waves of deadly violence in June and October last year left 200 dead and 140,000 displaced, sought to carry out “retaliatory attacks against Buddhists who had been persecuting them.”
Rights groups say the Rohingyas bore the brunt of the ethnic violence and make up the majority of the now displaced population in Rakhine state.
According to the report, a website founded by a member of the Indonesian radical Muslim group Jemaah Islamiah also uploaded 28 photos of Rohingyas undergoing military training in Rakhine state, saying it hoped the images would “encourage Muslims around the world to reignite jihad in [Rakhine].”
Ye Htut said security organizations would also investigate the authenticity of the 28 photos.
Around 800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and are considered by the U.N. to be among the world’s most persecuted minorities. Muslims make up around 4 percent of the country’s 60-million population.
More than 20,000 Rohingyas are estimated to have fled Myanmar, where they are denied many citizenship rights, by boat since last year’s violence to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, according to the U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking.
Reported by Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.