ARSA members active in Maungdaw District, locals say

Locals are worried as both unarmed and unarmed ARSA members have been reported in Maungdaw District — comprising the two aforementioned townships — in recent days.

By Admin 04 Sep 2023

ARSA members are pictured in mid-April 2022.
ARSA members are pictured in mid-April 2022.

DMG Newsroom
4 September 2023, Buthidaung

Members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) have been active in some villages of Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships, on the border of Arakan State and Bangladesh, according to local residents.

Locals are worried as both unarmed and unarmed ARSA members have been reported in Maungdaw District — comprising the two aforementioned townships — in recent days.

“ARSA members were seen in Thabeikchaung Village on August 31. In some villages, ARSA members go unarmed. We hope that their movements will not harm the villagers in any way,” said a resident of Kyarnyopyin Village in Buthidaung Township, who declined to be named for security reasons.

ARSA has been classified as a terrorist group by the Myanmar authorities, in part due to its killing of Hindus from Maungdaw in 2017. The group’s support among Muslims has decreased in recent years due to abuses and crimes committed in the Muslim refugee camps in Bangladesh.

An online discussion to mark the sixth anniversary of the genocide against Muslims in Arakan State was held on August 25. Villagers of northern Arakan State said the increased activity and movements of ARSA members in Maungdaw District was widely noted as following the sixth anniversary event.

“ARSA members stayed in the village for a long time, and returned, so the villagers are afraid. Local women dare not go outside,” said a local man from Phonenyolaik Village in Buthidaung Township.

A local eyewitness said the Myanmar military received information that ARSA members were seen near Theintaung Village in Buthidaung Township on August 30, and the ARSA members fled when junta soldiers were subsequently deployed near the village.

“Junta soldiers encircled Theintaung Village after receiving information that some ARSA members were near the village. The ARSA members fled to Thabeiktaung Village,” the eyewitness told DMG.

Some locals have moved to what they deem to be safer locations, fearing danger due to the recent increase in ARSA’s presence.

“Some ARSA members have been staying in the village for many days. So we decided to move to Buthidaung,” said a Muslim man from Nganchaung Village, Maungdaw Township.

ARSA members were accused of burning a vehicle on the road section between Laungdon and Kyeinchaung villages in Maungdaw Township, and of abducting two Muslim men in the area, on August 12.

The movement of ARSA members within territory controlled by the junta in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships has become a cause for concern among local residents, and politicians say there is a need to assert authority.

“ARSA members have been active in Maungdaw District significantly since August 25,” said U Aung Thaung Shwe, a former Arakan State lawmaker for Buthidaung Township. “These days, the Myanmar junta is also in a situation where it has to submit a counterclaim to the ICJ [International Court of Justice]. In some Muslim villages, there are threats against those who cooperate with the ULA/AA. The military junta has full responsibility for safeguarding public safety.”

Clashes between ARSA and AA were reported near Seinnyinpyar, Arkarpyan and Kyauksartaing villages, along the Mayu mountain range in Buthidaung Township, on July 18 and 19 of this year.

Muslim armed groups such as ARSA, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) and other small ARSA splinter groups have been active, to varying degrees in recent years, in Maungdaw District along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.