Rohingya insurgents have declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire to enable aid groups to help ease a humanitarian crisis in north-west Myanmar.
Nearly 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh and 30,000 non-Muslim civilians have been displaced inside Myanmar after the military launched a counter-offensive following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents on 30 police posts and an army base on August 25.
“ARSA strongly encourages all concerned humanitarian actors resume their humanitarian assistance to all victims of the humanitarian crisis, irrespective of ethnic or religious background during the ceasefire period,” ARSA said in a statement.
The impact of the ceasefire, beginning on Sunday, is unclear. The group does not appear to have been able to put up significant resistance against the military force unleashed in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state.
In the past two weeks, thousands of homes have been burned down, dozens of villagers uprooted and thousands of people are still on the move towards the border with Bangladesh.
The wave of hungry and traumatised refugees pouring into Bangladesh has strained aid agencies and local communities already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous waves of violence in Myanmar.
In its statement, ARSA called on the military to also lay down arms and allow humanitarian aid to all affected people.
Myanmar says its security forces are carrying out clearance operations to defend against ARSA, which the government has declared a terrorist organisation.
0:00 Rally in Pakistan against persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar Share Rally in Pakistan against persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.
On Friday, the United Nations in Bangladesh found tens of thousands of refugees who had not been counted before, raising the count to 270,000 from about 164,000 the day before. On Saturday, that jumped by another 20,000 to 290,000.
Aid workers say a serious humanitarian crisis is also unfolding on the Myanmar side of the border.
Red Cross organisations are scaling up their operations in Rakhine after the UN had to suspend activities there following government suggestions that its agency had supported the insurgents.
Thousands of displaced people in Rakhine have been stranded or left without food for weeks. Many are still trying to cross mountains, dense bush and rice fields to reach Bangladesh.