The rise of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which operates on the Bangladesh-Burma border is seen by its observers as a reflection of its terrorist activities as it tries to radicalize the people in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh.
According to a report in German media, the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar area are experiencing an increase in drug and other criminal activities, with the influx of outside groups.
There are media reports that extremist groups are trying to take over the camps.
They had earlier massacred about 99 Hindu women, men, and children as well as carried out unlawful killings and abductions of Hindu villagers in August 2017, Amnesty International revealed after conducting a detailed investigation inside Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
In January, there were reports that about 40 Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar camp were being trained by the Bangladesh-based Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
The JMB, officially recognized as a terrorist group in Bangladesh, carried out a 2016 raid on a Holey Artisan coffee shop near the diplomatic district of Dhaka, killing 22 people. Most of the dead were foreigners.
As per media reports, the JMB was responsible for training 40 Rohingya, with Saudi Arabia and Malaysia providing the first batch with 10 million Bangladeshi dollars ($ 117,000).
According to the report, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was among those behind the training, and the Indian government had alerted the Bangladeshi government security officials and border security officials about the ISI.
Siegfried O. Wolf, an analyst at the South Asia Democratic Forum, a Belgian-based group based in Brussels, has confirmed the possible involvement of ISI.
He said the ISI’s main goal was to destabilize some countries in the region, with Afghanistan and India at the top. He says it would be better for Pakistan to choose its cross-border terrorism as a third country, as the international community is watching Kashmir.
As a result, the Rohingya camps have become a target for terrorist groups.
Abdur Rashid, a Bangladeshi security expert (former Brigadier General), said that there had been attempts to radicalize the Rohingyas in the past, but that Bangladesh had always foiled that.
Rashid, of the Dhaka-based Institute for Conflict, Law and Development Studies, said Bangladesh has so far helped India in such matters, especially out of concern for the Northeast in India.
India is plagued by insurgency in its Northeast. The militants are based on the Indo-Burmese and Bangladesh borders. In Myanmar, they are based in the Naga region of Sagaing Division.
He added that Pakistan could “destabilize India” by supporting extremist groups (as mentioned earlier). But Bangladesh has said it will not do so.
Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s foreign minister, have said that attempts to spread extremism in the camps had not been successful in the past.
According to senior Burmese military officials, ARSA has returned to the border and has intensified its military operations. In the refugee camps, ARSAs are active at night and disguised during the day.
Tatmadaw spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said ARSA members have been conducting more military operations since April.
In May 2020, a lieutenant colonel and a policeman were injured when ARSA sniped at border guards. In early June, the Tatmadaw claimed that two bodies and two weapons were found in a half-hour clash with ARSA near the village of Meedik between BP-34 and BP-35 on the Burma-Bangladesh border.
The military has seized ARSA temporary camps and interrogated Muslim refugees who have returned (both legally and illegally), but have said that ARSA has been active in the camps.