Myanmar (Burma) - Rohingya militants `well-organized
The emergence of a "well-organized and well-funded" Muslim militancy behind attacks on security forces in western Myanmar could further de-stabilize the conflict-ridden region, an international think tank warned on Wednesday.
The violence prompted a sweeping crackdown on the Rohingya population, thousands of whom have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks amid accusations of mass killings and rapes. The government denies the allegations.
In its report, the International Crisis Group conducted interviews with members of Harakah al-Yaqin that suggest it is overseen by a committee of Rohingya emigres in Saudi Arabia.
Crisis Group's Asia programme director Tim Johnston told dpa at least some of the funding is believed to come from private donors in the Middle East.
"There are real risks that if the government mishandles the situation, for instance with the further use of excessive force, it will push more of the Muslim population in that area to support al-Yaqin, entrenching the armed group and a cycle of violence," he wrote in an editorial published by Time magazine.
"It may also create conditions for radicalization that could be exploited by transnational jihadists to pursue their own agendas in Burma."
Rights groups and Rohingya activists cast doubt on some of the findings and said the majority of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims confined to internal displacement camps and villages across Rakhine state did not support the insurgency.
"Villagers are consistently telling us they want rights and want to return home," said Matthew Smith, founder of NGO Fortify Rights. "No one is telling us they want militancy or armed resistance."
Richard Potter, a researcher with the Burma Human Rights Network, said recent contact suggested the militants had run out of ammunition and scattered in recent weeks.
"If there's money that's being gathered for them I can't see where it's going," he said.