The Myanmar junta now wants the help of those Rohingyas

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 3:17 am

It has been nearly seven years since Myanmar’s army killed thousands of Rohingya Muslims. The United Nations called the massacre an example of ethnic cleansing. Now they are asking for help from those Rohingyas.

The BBC has learned from interviews with Rohingyas living in Rakhine State that at least 100 Rohingya have recently been forcibly recruited to fight for Myanmar’s junta forces.

The names of those interviewed by the BBC have been changed for security reasons. 31-year-old Rohingya Mohammad. He has three children. He said, “I was afraid but I had to go.”

He lives in Bao Du Fa camp near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine. At least one and a half million Rohingya have been forced to live in internally displaced IDP camps over the past decade.

Mohammad said the leader of the Bao Du Fa camp approached him late at night in mid-February. And told him, he has to undergo military training.

This is the order of the army. Mohammad also said, “If I refuse to join the army, my family will be harmed.” The BBC spoke to several Rohingya. They confirmed that army officers were roaming around the camp and instructing the youth for military training.

The irony for Rohingya men like Mohammad is that Myanmar’s Rohingya are still denied citizenship.

They are subjected to various discriminatory restrictions and cannot travel outside their community.

In 2012, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were expelled from mixed communities in Rakhine state. They were forced to live in camps. Five years later, in August 2017, the army started a brutal massacre against them. Thousands of Rohingya were killed, raped and their villages burned. At that time, 7 lakh Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh in fear of their lives. About 6 lakh of them are still living in Bangladesh. Myanmar is now facing a genocide trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for its inhumane treatment of the Rohingya.

The Myanmar Army has lost large areas in Rakhine to the insurgent group Arakan Army. After that, they are forcibly recruiting the Rohingyas. However, many Rohingya have been killed by army artillery and airstrikes in Rakhine. The army is now facing attacks and casualties from opposition forces in other parts of the country as well. The Myanmar junta forces lost a large number of soldiers in the conflict. Some of them were killed, wounded, surrendered or defected. As a result, there is a shortage of troops in the army.

Few people in Myanmar are now willing to risk their lives for the junta government. The Rohingyas fear that this is why they are being targeted again. Mohammed said he was taken to the base of the 270th Light Infantry Battalion in Sittwe. Rohingya have been banned from living in the city since they were expelled during sectarian violence in 2012.

“We were taught how to load bullets and shoot,” Mohammad added. A video of another Rohingya group was seen by the BBC. In the video, Rohingyas are being taught how to operate BA-63 rifles.

Mohammed was trained for two weeks. He was then sent home. But after two days he was called again. He was taken to the top of a hill with 250 soldiers. A fierce battle was going on with the Arakan Army for control of three military bases there.

“I didn’t know why I was fighting,” Mohammad said. When they asked me to shoot in a Rakhine village, I shot.’ Mohammed fought for 11 days. The war has seen the deaths of several Rohingya conscripted into the army. Mohammed himself was injured. He got bullet injuries in both his legs. As a result, he was brought back to Sittwe for treatment. Mohammed returned to the camp after being discharged from the hospital.

On March 20, the Arakan Army published several pictures of the war. They released the pictures after taking control of the three bases from the Myanmar army. At least three of the bodies in the photo were Rohingya, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, the junta government is denying the Rohingyas’ orders to join the junta forces. “There are no plans to send them to the front line,” junta spokesman General Zaw Min Tun told the BBC. We want to ensure their safety. So I want to make arrangements so that they can defend themselves.

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