Narinjara news

Rohingyas demand Bangladeshi citizenship Unrest in refugee camp at Cox’s Bazaar

Cox’s Bazaar, 6 July 02:
After a respite for some time, trouble has once again cropped up in the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. The armed members of the Rohingya organizations have been reported to take up measures to foil the refugee repatriation process by resorting to provocative attacks.

The plan to attack upon representatives of foreign donor and international agencies on Wednesday (3 July 02) is now viewed as a part of, according to a law enforcement personnel, ‘the design to foil the repatriation process’. The Rohingyas raised slogans in the refugee camps demanding Bangladeshi citizenship, which enraged a large section of the local people. Rohingyas are the Muslims from Arakan State of Burma who on several occasions have been compelled to flee their home country on grounds of persecution by the ruling Burmese juntas.

There are at present about 21 thousand Rohingya refugees in the two refugee camps in the southeastern part of Bangladesh waiting for repatriation. They have been in these camps for the last 11 years. The repatriation process is very slow now, which is supposed to be done at the rate of 5 to 10 persons every Wednesday. But most of the Wednesdays the repatriation remain suspended on various lame excuses usually from the Burmese side.

Last month the Government of Bangladesh in an interministrial meeting took decision to repatriate Rohingya refugees and push the Rohingyas living illegally in the Bandarban and Cox’s Bazaar districts back. In the meeting it was stressed that the repatriation process should be stepped up.

As soon as steps to speed up the repatriation process were undertaken, the situation in the Rohingya refugee camps became tense. Armed Rohingyas who were so long residing out of the camp, engaged in criminal activities, have been reported to come back to the camps. Last Wednesday by the instigation of these armed members of the community, the refugees were about to commit the attack, it was learnt.

The police while trying to foil the premeditated attack got locked in a clash with the Rohingya refugees. That day a high-level team consisting of representatives from the World Food Programme, the UNHCR, the US Embassy in Dhaka, and the Ministry of Relief visited the Nayapara relief camp at Teknaf in the southern part of Bangladesh close to the Burmese border. The officials at the Rohingya refugee camp told that the team went there to monitor the relief works at the camps as per schedule. A Field Supervisor of and international agency informed the refugees about this high-level visit in advance, according to an official of the camp.

While visiting on Thursday it was learnt that, a few hundred Rohingyas from the Nayapara camp raised slogans demanding the citizenship of Bangladesh in front of the members of the high-level team. At a stage they were about to attack the team with steel rods, sticks and bricks. The police force was compelled to wield sticks to stop the Rohingya attackers and in the attack four police constables and twelve Rohingyas were wounded.

Officials told that seventeen families of the camp have refused to accept ration for the last three years, demanding for the establishment of democracy in Burma. Fifteen more families have joined them recently. The camp authority has already received clearance for return to Myanmar of the ninety refugees belonging to these fifteen families.

In fact the Rohingya refugees have resorted to violence in the camp to prevent the repatriation move. They have been reported to meet secretly in the camps for realizing their demands in this manner.

Officials at the camps fear that they might be held hostage by these elements in the camp for that purpose at any time. The Bangladeshi officials recently refused to talk to the representatives of the refugees on the prevailing situation as they ‘had every reason to fear to be taken hostage by the dissatisfied armed hoodlums’, as an official put it. The officials expressed their concern on the reports of the ‘grouping’ of armed Rohingyas within the refugee camp that might call in more trouble to a protracted crisis which is like a skeleton in the cupboard shared by both Burma and Bangladesh. #