Large sections of the Rohingya community were burned out of their homes in 2012. Source: YouTube
Nine Myanmar police officers were killed in attacks early on Sunday on three outposts in troubled Rakhine State, with the authorities blaming Rohingya militants.
Police Major General Zaw Win told the press in the capital Nay Pyi Taw that four other officers were injured and one was missing. Eight attackers had been killed and two detained, the police chief said, while 51 firearms and 10,000 rounds of ammunition were taken from the police outposts. The police said the weapons used were rudimentary.
They said the attackers were mainly armed with knives and “ginkali”, a homemade catapult that fired metal bolts.
Tin Maung Swe of the Rakhine State government told the media that “RSO insurgents” were to blame, a reference to the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation.
The RSO was a small Rohingya militant group active during the 1980s and 1990s but has not been heard from in almost 20 years.
The International Crisis Group described the RSO as “essentially defunct as an armed organisation”.
Activists have warned that the Rohingyas’ continued persecution might persuade some Muslims to become radicalised. The Muslim Rohingya are largely confined to camps and face restrictions which have been compared to the South African apartheid system.
Despite their persecution, the Rohingya do not have a known militant movement fighting for their rights and have largely avoided political violence.
But the authorities in Nay Pyi Taw said the attackers were Rohingya.
“According to our force members who are working on this case, those who attacked and raided were shouting that they were Rohingyas,” Zaw Win told the media.
Ethnic Rakhine Buddhist armies operate in the state, principally the Arakan Army, although the authorities blamed the Rohingya group, saying an RSO attacker was detained.
The Rohingyas have been burned out of their homes since 2012 with more than 100,000 sheltering in squalid camps, according to rights groups. Although Muslims have lived in the area for centuries, the government does not recognise them as citizens and views them as migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. The Burmese media often refers to them as “Bengals”.
An estimated quarter of Myanmar’s three million Muslims live in Rakhine State.