Myanmar has given Bangladesh a list of hundreds of suspected Rohingya insurgents believed to be hiding out across the border, but security sweeps have netted no rebels thus far, the Bangladeshi home minister told BenarNews in an interview.
Myanmar officials furnished the list of names of alleged members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) during bilateral meetings in Naypyidaw late last month and asked Bangladesh to help them catch them, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said.
“At the meeting, Myanmar handed us a list of suspected ARSA members. The list contained over 500 names who were allegedly ARSA members. They said the ARSA members were hiding across the border,” the minister said.
He noted that the list contained names but lacked other information about the suspects such as birth date, height, parents’ names, profession and place of residence.
Khan was among officials attending talks in Myanmar’s capital on Oct. 24 that aimed to reduce tensions over a massive and unprecedented influx of Rohingya refugees into southeastern Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since the end of August.
After the bilateral talks, Bangladeshi authorities have searched refugee settlements in the southeast where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are now concentrated, but they are having a difficult time finding ARSA rebels, Khan said.
“We need additional information about them,” he said.
“We will not allow any terrorists and militants on our land, I told them. But are only names enough to find them from hundreds of thousands of people?” the home minister told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
BenarNews could not immediately verify Khan’s account of the request with Myanmar government officials.
‘No terrorist group will get any patronage’
Myanmar has blamed ARSA rebels for launching a series of attacks on police outposts in Rakhine on Aug. 25 that killed more than 100 people, including dozens of insurgents, officials there said.
These in turn unleashed a military offensive as well as reported arson and rape attacks on Rohingya villages that have driven more than 600,000 refugees across the border into Bangladesh.
The Myanmar government has denied allegations that its security forces and Rakhine Buddhist militia groups have targeted Rohingya civilians in atrocities.
Across the border, security searches, launched by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion on Oct. 28, have targeted refugee camps in Ukhia, a sub-district of Cox’s Bazar district where most of the new Rohingya arrivals are concentrated.
The operation was still ongoing as of Friday, officials said.
“We have taken the list given by Myanmar very seriously. The law enforcement agencies have been examining the names contained on the list,” Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury, the director general in charge of the South East Asia desk at Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, told BenarNews.
“[W]e have assured them that not only ARSA, [but] no terrorist group will get any patronage in Bangladesh,” he added.
‘Not seen any ARSA here’
In Cox’s Bazar, Mohammad Nur, the general secretary of the Kutupalong refugee camp, reacted skeptically to efforts by RAB personnel in scouring the area for ARSA militants.
“Look, ARSA and al-Yaqin are not good for both Bangladesh and Myanmar. We have been facing such a tragedy due to ARSA. I have been living here since 2007. I have not seen any ARSA here,” he told BenarNews in a phone interview from Cox’s Bazar. Al-Yaqin is an old name for ARSA.
In October 2016, when the group was still known as Harakah al-Yaqin (HaY), it mounted attacks on border posts that killed nine Burmese policemen and provoked another military crackdown, causing some 87,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into southeastern Bangladesh.
According to a study by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), HaY was made up of Rohingya emigres with links to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.