Yangon: The Rohingya military group Arsa carried out deadly massacres and abductions of the Hindu community in Myanmar’s Rakhine state last year, a new report by Amnesty International has revealed. Rohingya militants massacred Hindu villagers during last year’s uprising in Myanmar’s Rakhine. The militants, known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), denied responsibility at the time.
Testimony collected by Amnesty from dozens of witnesses and survivors of the attacks in Rakhine in August have detailed how up to 99 Hindu men, women and children were killed by Arsa militants armed with knives, swords and sticks. Only those who agreed to convert to Islam were spared.
According to the report, on 25 August last year, Arsa militants, aided by some local Rohingya, descended on the village of Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik, in the northern Maungdaw township in Rakhine.
They rounded up all 69 Hindu men, women, and children, before executing 53 of them. Some who agreed to convert from Hinduism to Islam were freed.
Myanmar’s military responded to the insurgent raids with harsh reprisals that forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the mainly Buddhist country where they have faced persecution for years.
The UN says the army crackdown amounted to “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya, with soldiers and vigilante mobs accused of killing civilians and burning down villages.
But the Rohingya militants have also been accused of abuses. Those include the mass killing of Hindus in the far north of Rakhine.
Citing interviews with eight survivors, the rights group said dozens were rounded up, blindfolded and marched out of town by masked men and Rohingya villagers in plain clothes.
Raj Kumari, 18, who witnessed the attack, told Amnesty: “They slaughtered the men. We were told not to look at them. They had knives. They also had some spades and iron rods. We hid in the shrubs there and were able to see a little. My uncle, my father, my brother – they were all slaughtered.”
Another witness, Formila, 20, told Amnesty that the Arsa fighters had taken the men away to kill them, then “came back with blood on their swords, and blood on their hands”.
The report also details other Arsa attacks on 26 August, on the outskirts of Maungdaw town, near Myo Thu Gyi village, where more Hindus and Buddhists were killed.
The report said that in a separate village nearby called Ye Bauk Kyar, 46 Hindu men, women and children disappeared on the same day. It cited information from local Hindus who believe they were killed by ARSA.
While Rakhine was home mainly to Buddhists and Muslims before the crisis, it also boasts a small but longstanding Hindu minority — many of whom were brought in by British colonisers looking for cheap labour — as well as several other smaller ethnic groups.