Narinjara news


Muslims from Burma flee forced labour

Cox’s Bazaar, 5 November:  A fresh intrusion of Muslims from Burma including the Rohingya Muslims has been reported through the porous borders of the south-eastern district of Bangladesh close to Burma’s western border, reports our correspondent.

The influx has caused wide concern among the local administration.  So far an estimated five thousand illegal Rohingyas crossed the Naaf River up to the last week of November who took shelter in the district of Cox’s Bazaar, according to a news item in the Independent ( 26 Nov) from Dhaka.  Though the officials claimed the number to be 3,500 the actual number of the new arrivals could not be ascertained as many get mingled with the local Muslim population, residents in the area said.

When investigated, our correspondent came to know that the influx resulted from fresh forced labour employed by the Burmese junta officials at home.  Sabid Ali (not real name), a resident of northern part of Maungdaw Township available in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, said that there is an undisclosed famine-like situation prevailing in the entire area where Rohingya Muslims largely live due to conscription for forced labour in construction works. Besides, the cost of essentials in recent months has recorded the highest in the area, making life very difficult.  There were no jobs available, too, he added.  When asked about the actual number of Rohingya Muslims presently staying in
Bangladesh he said he did not know, but in Cox’s Bazaar upazila alone, the number of illegal Rohingyas would be about nine or ten thousand he said.

“The Burmese junta imposed travel restrictions on the movements of the Muslim Rohingyas also make our life miserable as we cannot even move from one village to another without the permission of the local junta officials.  That does not come without a large bribe,” he said,   “Our wedding also needs permission from the junta to take place.  In the coming Eid-ul-fitr, the greatest of Muslim festivals, we will have difficult times observing it as most of the Muslim population is hard-up due to all the restrictions.”

Meanwhile, the unscrupulous businessmen in the district have been engaged in producing
semai (a kind of vermicelli), the popular sweet used during the Muslim festival of Eid celebrated at the end of the month-long Ramadan fasting using palm stearin, in frying the product, which have been smuggled into Burma.  Palm stearin is used in soap-making but in this case it is used in making artificial ghee (as the real clarified butter is costly) that is used in frying the vermicelli before smuggling it to Burma, according to a local newspaper report here.  The article demanded that at least one hundred tons of semai will make its way into Burma before the Eid, posing a health threat to thousands of Muslims there.  #

Narinjara wishes “Eid Mubarak” and peace and prosperity in the coming year to all our readers on the eve of the holy Eid-ul-Fitr!