YANGON, MYANMAR - About 1,000 members of the Rohingya ethnic minority who fled Myanmar during its army's four-month counterinsurgency operation have returned to their villages in Rakhine state after Myanmar's government announced last week that it was halting military operations in the area, activists in Bangladesh said Monday.
The army's campaign began in October after nine police officers at outposts on the border with Bangladesh were killed. Human rights groups said the army burned down more than 1,000 homes and killed an unknown number of civilians, among other abuses. About 70,000 Rohingya villagers fled to Bangladesh and 20,000 fled within Myanmar.
"About a thousand people have left from Bangladesh to go to their villages in Myanmar since late last week hoping to see their families back there, but we are worried that they will face the same kind of treatment by the government there," Ko Ko Linn, an activist for the Arakan Rohingya National Organization based in Chittagong, Bangladesh, said by phone.
The office of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Saturday that two soldiers were wounded when fired upon while providing protection for workers building a fence on the border with Bangladesh. It said the attackers, an unidentified group of about 30 people who were positioned on hills inside Bangladesh, retreated when Myanmar forces returned fire in the Friday incident.
The clash occurred one day after Myanmar declared its military had ended its counterinsurgency operations in that area of Rakhine state.
A 13-member government commission is carrying on an official investigation in the region after United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report early this month alleging that the military likely committed crimes against humanity, including rape.
More than 100,000 Muslim Rohingyas have been forced to live in squalid displacement camps after communal violence with members of the country's Buddhist majority in 2012. The estimated 1 million Rohingya face official and social discrimination and are generally denied citizenship, even if their families have lived in Myanmar for generations.