4yrs of Rohingya arrival: Myanmar procrastinating repatriation
Published: 11:36 AM, 25 August 2021 Updated: 12:50 PM, 25 August 2021
More than 11 lakh Rohingyas fled across the border into Bangladesh to seek refuge in the face of the Myanmar army’s crackdown on the Rakhine state. Considering the situation at that time, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the border and gave shelter to the Rohingyas for humanitarian reasons. The influx of Rohingyas to Bangladesh started on August 25, 2017, later, around 11.5 lakh Rohingyas took shelter one by one.
Today, August 25, 2021, marks the four years of Rohingyas’ arrival. Although four years have been passed since the Rohingya crisis, there has been no progress in repatriation despite Myanmar’s promises. So far, not a single Rohingya has been repatriated. Myanmar, on the contrary, is making “silly excuses” not to take back the Rohingyas.
According to official figures, more than 11 lakh Rohingyas are currently living in 34 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas, among these, 1.31 lakh more Rohingya children have been born in Bangladesh. Currently, the number of Rohingyas in these camps are around 12.5 lakh, resulting in immense suffering for the Teknaf people.
Data from Forest Department says that 6,500 acres of forest have been evicted to provide shelter to the Rohingya. There has been “unimaginable damage” to the environment and biodiversity, as a result, the habitat of wildlife has been destroyed and the wild animals are repeatedly attacking the locality – especially the elephants. Even three elephants died this year due to the “food crisis”
The living and activities of 12.5 lakh Rohingyas have also affected the entire Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas. Thousands of acres of agricultural land have been destroyed. If this situation continues, the forest and biodiversity will be endangered and the region will become uninhabitable.
Bangladesh has been lobbying for the Rohingya repatriation bilaterally, multilaterally and even to the United Nations. Due to Myanmar’s political apathy, there has been no significant progress in Rohingya repatriation. Global pandemic COVID-19 has added to this crisis.
For this, the leaders of the Rohingya Repatriation Struggle National Committee think that the Rohingya repatriation is moving towards “uncertainty” day by day. However, Ata Ullah Khan, president of the commitee, is still “optimistic about repatriation”.
Rohingya leader Kamal Hossain said the Myanmar government was “desperate to convict” Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, instead of repatriating them. Their goal is to “question” the case filed by the Gambia against Myanmar over the Rohingya genocide at the International Court of Justice in November 2019. That is why Myanmar is making every effort to “portray the Rohingya as terrorists”.
“We want to return to our country, but the Myanmar government is trying its best not to take us, trying to break their promises,” said another Rohingya leader Kalim Ullah.
Kalim Ullah claimed that all the terrorist activities in the camp are being carried out at the “behest of identified terrorists and militant groups”. “Ordinary innocent Rohingyas have nothing to do with these evil deeds. At the behest of Myanmar, they are carrying out various terrorist activities in the camps in the name of Al-Yakin and Arsar,” he added.
Abdus Shukur, a resident of Rohingya Camp No. 19, said the Myanmar government was trying to create a “conflict situation” in the Rohingya camp, including the yaba business, through the suicidal Rohingyas. “I have closely monitored that the Rohingyas who used to bring only yabas from Myanmar now carrying weapons,” he also said, adding that they are involved in various criminal activities including kidnapping.
Abdus Shukur added that it could be feared that the Myanmar government was trying to provoke a “large-scale conflict among the Rohingyas” to identify them as terrorists.
According to police, at least 1,200 lawsuits of various crimes in Rohingya camps have been registered with the Cox’s Bazar police stations in the last four years and 1,871 Rohingyas have been named as accused. These crimes include – arms, drugs, rape, kidnapping, special powers act, police assault, robbery, murder and human trafficking.
The misguided Rohingyas are getting involved in gold smuggling, hundi and various misdeeds and crimes against the sovereignty of Bangladesh. The lack of hope in the Rohingya repatriation has caused anger and frustration among the locals as well.
Zafar Alam Chowdhury, one of the advisors of the Rohingya Prevention Committee, said 6.5 lakh people of Ukhiya, Teknaf are now hostage to the Rohingyas today. At least 7-8 checkposts were set up in Cox’s Bazar. However, the Rohingyas are continuing their misdeeds.
He added that even after four years, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated – which is very sad. Otherwise, the rate at which Rohingyas are committing crimes will make it difficult for locals to live.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen recently expressed frustration over not being able to repatriate a single Rohingya in the last four years. “The Rohingya are an oppressed and displaced people, we have given them shelter here for some time,” he said. “Our priority issue is that they have to return.”
He said neighboring Myanmar had promised to take them, but now they are showing reluctance in keeping their promise.
Cox’s Bazar DC Md. Mamunur Rashid said the government has made every effort to ensure the safe repatriation of Rohingya and continued international pressure on Myanmar.
Meanwhile, Ukhiya Palangkhali UP chairman Gafur Uddin Chowdhury gave more frightening information. Out of 12.5 lakh Rohingyas, there are more than 8 lakh Rohingyas in his union where the total population of the Palangkhali Union is about 50,000.
He said the Rohingyas had established “terrorist activities” in his area. Rohingyas are involved in all kinds of criminal activities including terrorism, extortion, kidnapping. “The Union Parishad does not have the power to judge the Rohingyas,” chairman Gafur Uddin Chowdhury informed, alleging that the innocent people from one or another village of his union are being taken away every night for ransom and killed by the Rohingyas for not getting the desired money.
It is to be noted that in the last 4 years, the joint forces have demolished the dan of the Rohingya militant organization more than once. Hundreds of terrorists have been arrested with weapons. At least 40 people were killed in gun battles.