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We Spoke to Rohingyas Taking Up Arms Against Myanmar’s Government

The Myanmar government calls the ARSA a terrorist group. But the armed group's members say they are just defending Rohingya Muslims from government oppression.

This article originally appeared on VICE News.

They insist they are freedom fighters, but the Myanmar government calls them terrorists. On August 25, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a coordinated attack on border posts and military camps, killing 12 officers, and setting off a state-sponsored crackdown that has forced over half a million Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

The UN has called Myanmar's military response to ARSA a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing," and has documented reports of rape, murder, torture, and whole villages being burned to the ground.


ARSA says they had no choice but to fight back against Myanmar's force.

"Our aim was to let the world know, which is done," an ARSA commander told VICE News. "Now our hope rests with the world."

ARSA maintains that they have no intention of taking their cause beyond Myanmar. But some experts think that ARSA is getting support from powerful backers in the Middle East, and that their cause may attract foreign fighters.

"This could become the new center of international militancy and terrorism which could completely destabilize the security of the neighboring region,"said ANM Muniruzzaman, a former major general with the Bangladesh Army.

VICE News went to the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, to speak to ARSA members about what they think the group's future holds.

This segment originally aired Oct. 24, 2017, on VICE News Tonight.