YANGON: The leader of a Rohingya Muslim insurgency against Myanmar’s security forces said on Friday his group would keep fighting “even if a million die” unless the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, took action to protect the religious minority.
Attacks on Myanmar border guard posts in October last year by a previously unknown insurgent group ignited the biggest crisis of Suu Kyi’s year in power, with more than 75,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh in the ensuing army crackdown.
In his first independently conducted media interview, Ata Ullah, who has been identified by analysts and local people as the group’s leader, denied links to foreign Islamists and said it was focused on the rights of the Rohingya, who say they face persecution at the hands of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.
“If we don’t get our rights, if 1 million, 1.5 million, all Rohingya need to die, we will die,” he said, speaking via a video call from an undisclosed location. “We will take our rights. We will fight with the cruel military government.”
A United Nations report issued last month said Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes against Rohingya during their campaign against the insurgents, which may amount to crimes against humanity.
The military has denied the accusations, saying it was engaged in a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
“No one will be above the law,” said Suu Kyi’s spokesman Zaw Htay, responding to questions from Reuters on Friday about the insurgent leader’s comments. “If they attack us violently, we will respond the same way. Nowhere in the world would violent action be tolerated.”
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