A group in Europe advocating Rohingya Muslims says Myanmar’s military manipulated some members of the community into carrying out an attack on a border outpost back in October in order to legitimize a crackdown on the Muslims.
The military has launched a crackdown on the Rohingyas in the western state of Rakhine, where they are concentrated, since an attack on the country’s border guards on October 9 left nine police officers dead. The government blamed the Rohingyas for the assault.
Khairul Amin, the chairman of the European Rohingya Council (ERC), told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency on Monday that Myanmar’s military and police armed some people and “encouraged them to attack the police post so it could use this as a pretext to launch atrocities against Rohingya.”
“Obsolete weapons were sold by police to Rohingya youngsters, who attacked the police post because they thought they could get international attention or save their oppressed people,” he said.
“They (the military officials) wanted to wipe them out, therefore they used helicopter gunships on them; they wanted to show the world that there are militants or terrorists at work in Myanmar, and by arming the Rohingya, it gave them license to carry out this operation,” he said.
According to Amin, the ongoing government crackdown has so far killed at least 400 people, destroyed more than 2,500 houses, mosques and religious schools, and completely wiped out three villages.
The government has claimed, however, that only 86 people, including 17 soldiers, have been killed. It has imposed a siege on Rakhine and has so far refused calls by humanitarian groups to allow an external independent investigation into the situation of the besieged Rohingyas.
Amin said officials in Myanmar “want to cleanse Rohingya so they can establish authority and get to the natural resources.”
At least 30,000 Rohingya have been internally displaced in Rakhine, while thousands of others have tried to reach Bangladesh over the last month to seek refuge amongst the Rohingya refugee population that already lives there.
However, Bangladesh has also started to crack down on the incoming refugees by either preventing them at border transit points or confining them to refugee camps.
On Monday, Bangladesh border guards turned back a number of Rohingya refugees who were attempting to cross the Naf River separating Rakhine from southern Bangladesh.
Eight boats totally packed with more than 100 refugees were pushed back, according to the head of the border guards in the Bangladeshi frontier town of Teknaf, Abuzar Al Zahid.
Bangladesh, which has refused international appeals to let the refugees in, has called on Myanmar to do more to stop people fleeing their country.
Myanmar denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population and instead brands them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even as many trace their lineage in Myanmar back generations.