Myanmar's military junta removes Rakhine rebels from list of terrorist groups
Myanmar's military junta has removed Arakan Army (AA) insurgents from its list of terrorist groups in order to help establish peace across the country.
The state media said on Thursday that the Rakhine rebels, as the faction is referred to as, had stopped attacks in Myanmar. The move also comes at a time when the army is struggling to contain daily protests against its February 1 coup in which elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown.
The AA had been placed on the list of terrorist groups last year under Aung San Suu Kyi's government.
The AA is fighting for greater autonomy in the western Rakhine state and over the past two years had become one of the most formidable forces in challenging an army that has been fighting various ethnic wars for about seven decades.
"The designation of this group as a terrorist group is terminated from Mar 11, 2021," state-run Mirror Daily said, citing the end of attacks and the junta's vision of building "nationwide eternal peace".
The AA's ranks are largely drawn from the ethnic Rakhine and Buddhist majority in what was an independent kingdom until the 18th century.
AA spokesman Khine Thu Kha said Rakhine had suffered years of violence and decline and the removal of its designation as a terrorist group was positive.
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Notably, the AA had not voiced support for the protesters and there have been very few protests in Rakhine state, which came to world attention in 2017 when 700,000 people from the Rohingya Muslim minority fled an army crackdown.
Meanwhile, as many as seven people were killed when security forces opened fire on anti-junta protests in Myanmar on Thursday even as rights group Amnesty International accused the military of adopting battle tactics against demonstrators.
Six people were killed in the central town of Myaing when forces fired on a protest, one man who took part in the demonstration and helped carry bodies to hospital, told Reuters by telephone. A health worker there confirmed all six deaths.
One person was killed in the North Dagon district of Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, domestic media said. Photographs posted on Facebook showed a man lying prone on the street, bleeding from a head wound.
Before Thursday's deaths, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group has said more than 60 protesters have been killed and about 2,000 people detained by security forces since the February 1 coup.
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Amnesty International accused the army of using lethal force against protesters and said many killings documented amounted to extrajudicial executions.
The junta has previously said it is acting with utmost restraint in handling what it describes as demonstrations by "riotous protesters" whom it accuses of attacking police and harming national security and stability.
The army has justified the coup by saying that the election, won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, was marred by fraud - an assertion rejected by the electoral commission. The junta has promised a new election within a year, but has not set a date.