Burmese lingering in
the prison of Bangladesh
June 03: A total of
forty four Burmese prisoners have already spent eight years after the expiry of
their prison terms in a prison in the southeastern hilly district town of Rangamati, the daily Janakantha
Though the government of Bangladesh
has again and again tried to repatriate these prisoners into Burma
during these years, the Burmese junta has never recognized them even as their
own citizens said one of the prisoners who declined to identify. “We only
know that the prison authorities have again and again tried to attract the
attention of the Burmese regime by informing the Burmese embassy in Dhaka
in vain. The Burmese military regime has all along been reluctant either to
recognize as their legitimate citizens or simply disregarded our appeals, on
grounds only known to them,” he said.
According to the prison authorities, these Burmese citizens were arrested while
illegally crossing the international border or caught fishing illegally in the Bangladesh
waters. Interestingly enough most of the Burmese prisoners were found to
be fishermen. These 44 persons were arrested in 1994
96 but all attempts to repatriate them have gone futile as because of
the red tape involved.
One of the five Burmese prisoners, released last year by the intervention of
the UNHCR, told us that the process of release of the Burmese prisoners who
have overstayed their prison terms by as many as eight years is very
bureaucratic. While in the jail in Chittagong,
the second city of Bangladesh,
they tried to get in touch with the UNHCR. Failing which all the dozens
of Burmese prisoners staged hunger strike, and though they were given the
promise of ‘freedom’ by the Deputy Commissioner, nothing happened for a couple
of times. Then they again and again resorted to various demonstrations,
hunger strike, rally, and whatever. Every time they had to face more and
more harsh treatments. Long after that they were lucky enough to have a
meeting with the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Chittagong
region. Meanwhile representatives from the UNHCR met them for a couple of
times. And at last they were released under the custody of the UNHCR, Bangladesh.
But not all of the Burmese prisoners are as lucky as them. There are
still seven to eight hundred Burmese refugees in the various jails of Bangladesh.
Till now only eleven persons have been ‘freed’ by the UNHCR and some other NGOs
dealing in human rights.
The future of the hundreds of the Burmese prisoners is still uncertain.
Though in recent times the bilateral relations of the two neighbouring
countries have ‘improved substantially’, according to the Foreign Ministry of
Bangladesh, there has been no significant policy regarding the release or
repatriation of the Burmese refugees, said a head of a local NGO dealing in
human rights. #