Rohingya rebels call one-month Myanmar ceasefire as exodus grows

Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh) (AFP) – Rohingya militants, who sparked an army crackdown in Myanmar that has seen nearly 300,000 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh, on Sunday declared a unilateral ceasefire to allow aid to reach the increasingly desperate fugitives.

The United Nations said 294,000 bedraggled and exhausted Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since the militants’ attacks on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine state on August 25 sparked a major military backlash.

Tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine after more than a fortnight without shelter, food and water.

Three Rohingya are reported to have been killed by a mine near the border allegedly laid by Myanmar security forces to stop the fugitives returning.

Mainly Buddhist Myanmar does not recognise its stateless Muslim Rohingya community, labelling them as “Bengalis” — illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

A further 27,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also fled violence that has gripped the northern part of the state.

“The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) hereby declares a temporary cessation of offensive military operations,” the group said in a statement on its official Twitter account.

It urged “all humanitarian actors” to resume aid delivery to “all victims of humanitarian crisis irrespective of ethnic or religious background” during the one-month ceasefire period until October 9.

ARSA called on Myanmar to “reciprocate this humanitarian pause” in fighting.

There was no immediate response from Myanmar’s military, but on Saturday authorities said they would set up three relief camps in Rohingya-majority areas.

Rohingya refugees say army operations against ARSA led to mass killings and the burning of hundreds of villages, sending them across the border.

International aid programmes in Rakhine have been severely curtailed, as the fighting tore through parts of the state.

– Food, shelter, safety –

India’s foreign ministry called for an immediate end to the violence, urging the situation “be handled with restraint and maturity”.

Thousands are arriving in Bangladesh each day, joining already overcrowded camps of Rohingya who have fled Myanmar over decades of troubles. The UN refugee agency UNHCR gave the latest figure of 294,000 for the new arrivals.

The UN has appealed for urgent donations of $77 million.

Bangladesh already hosts around 400,000 Rohingya from previous crises.

The Red Cross in Bangladesh welcomed the ceasefire pledge as aid agencies struggle to…

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