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Rohingya armed group accused of forced recruitment; Civil society groups condemn attacks in Arakan

Editor’s note: In the Tuesday, May 21 edition of the Daily Briefing newsletter we mistakenly captioned an image from a DVB TV News screen grab saying that it showed arson in Buthidaung when it, in fact, showed a fire at a market in Kyaukphyu. We regret the error and have updated the caption on the image.

Rohingya armed group accused of forced recruitment

Rohingya refugee leaders in Bangladesh have said that the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), an armed group founded in 1982, detained around 30 people in the Kutupalong refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar on Tuesday. They claimed that the RSO has been forcefully recruiting young people on behalf of the Burma Army in exchange for payment.

“Around 30 youths were arrested in Ward One and put in a truck. People from the camp found out and surrounded the truck. The RSO threatened them with guns, but gradually more and more people came and they began to attack the RSO [troops],” a Rohingya man told DVB.

All of the Rohingya held by the RSO were freed. Nine RSO troops were handed over to the Bangladesh police. They were later released, according to a Rohingya man living in Kutupalong refugee camp. There have been complaints filed to the Bangladesh police that the RSO is forcefully recruiting young Rohingya men.

Civil society groups condemn attacks in northern Arakan

A total of 195 groups and civil society organizations issued a joint statement condemning violence against the Rohingya in northern Arakan State. The Burma Army has been accused of killing and forcefully recruiting Rohingya, while the Arakan Army (AA) has been accused of looting and burning down Rohingya homes.

“We urge the AA to take responsibility to be accountable to local communities for ensuring social harmony. It is also necessary to comply with the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law not to wage battles in civilian areas and not to forcibly relocate villagers from the Rohingya villages,” it stated.

The joint statement called on the AA to independently investigate allegations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya and hold the perpetrators accountable. They also urged Rohingya leaders and the AA to engage in dialogue in order to ease ethnic tensions in Arakan State. 

ASEAN parliamentarians respond to regional role in crime hubs

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Parliamentarians For Human Rights (APHR) expressed alarm over a Justice For Myanmar investigation that revealed the involvement of foreign nationals and entities in cyber scam operations run by the Border Guard Force (BGF) in Myawaddy Township of Karen State. 

“The cyber scam parks, illegal casinos, and illegal online gambling linked to the Karen BGF has resulted in untold suffering and misery across the region and beyond. Authorities across Southeast Asia must take concrete action to shut them down,” said Raoul Manuel, an APHR member from the Philippines.

Manuel urged parliamentarians from Malaysia and Thailand to investigate citizens of their countries that were implicated in the Justice For Myanmar report. Thai banks and citizens from Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and Cambodia were accused of doing business with the BGF, which has recently rebranded itself as the Karen National Army (KNA).

News by Region

Bilin Township residents inspect the Masaw bridge after it was destroyed by an explosion on May 23. (Credit: CJ)

MON—One civilian was killed and three others were injured when Masaw bridge on the Yangon-Mawlamyine Road in Bilin Township was destroyed by an explosion on Thursday. “[A] motorbike taxi driver died,” a Bilin Township resident told DVB. No group has claimed responsibility for the destruction. Another bridge on the Yangon-Mawlamyine Road in the same township was destroyed on May 11. 

AYEYARWADY—The Pyapon District Court sentenced three people from 15-years to life in prison on May 16, according to anonymous sources close to the prison. The three were arrested in February allegedly carrying weapons and were charged under the Counter Terrorism Law. 

A source told DVB that one of the youths received a life sentence while the other two were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Fourteen people were convicted by the Pyapon District Court in October 2023 for allegedly being members of the People’s Defense Force (PDF). Of them, seven were sentenced to death and the rest received prison terms. 

CHINLAND—Five civilians were killed and ten others, including children, were injured by an airstrike carried out on Tarunaing village of Paletwa Township on Tuesday. Paletwa has been under the control of the AA since Jan. 14. “The military conducted three airstrikes with fighter jets,” a Tarunaing resident told DVB. Homes were also reportedly damaged. 

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