Rebel militia in Myanmar’s Rakhine state joins other minorities in condemning junta

(Reuters) - The Arakan Army (AA), a major ethnic militia in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state, on Tuesday joined other ethnic groups in condemning last month’s military coup and the ensuing violent crackdown on protesters.

While several other armed groups fighting long-running wars in Myanmar’s borderlands have signalled their support for pro-democracy protests, the AA, which had agreed a ceasefire with the government ousted on Feb. 1, had not commented publicly.

“It is a great sadness that innocent people are being shot and killed all over Myanmar,” AA spokesman Khine Thu Kha said in a message, adding that the group was “together ... with the people”.

“The current actions by the Burmese army and police are very cruel and unacceptable,” he said.

He said the AA would “continue to go forward for the oppressed Rakhine people” and that “the oppressed ethnic people as a whole will continue to fight for their freedom from oppression”.

At least 261 people have been killed since the army crackdown began, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

A spokesman for the army did not answer calls requesting comment. Among the goals the junta has set out is to “restore eternal peace” on the basis of existing ceasefires with some armed factions.

On Sunday, civil society groups based in Rakhine demanded the junta “abandon the coup and accept the federal democratic system, based on self-administration, that is desired by the people”.

Writing by Poppy Elena McPherson; Editing by Kevin Liffey