Dec 8, 2016: More than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed borders from Myanmar into Bangladesh to escape the increasing violence over the past two months, said a UN official and a Rohingya community leader. The Bangladeshi authorities stated that they were permitting certain vulnerable refugees to enter the country on a humanitarian basis.
Earlier, the southeastern border with Myanmar was sealed and hundreds of refugees were not allowed to cross the border in spite of reports of killings and the burning of Rohingya households in the nearby Rakhine state during a government crackdown.
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This is the largest evacuation into Bangladesh from Rakhine since 2012, when thousands of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority migrated into its neighbouring country to flee from the violence between the Rohingyas and the Buddhist majority.
“Based on reports by various humanitarian agencies, we estimate that there could be 10,000 new arrivals in recent weeks”, a spokeswoman in for the U.N. refugee agency’s office in Bangkok Vivian Tan, said on Wednesday.
Hafez Ahmed, a leader of unregistered Rohingya in Kutupalang Camp in Cox’s Bazar, a district in southeastern Bangladesh, told Benar news that the actual number of refugees could be double than the figure given by the UN. Around 10,000 of the new refugees were sheltered at his camp and the rest were spread out in the south-east.
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Mohammad Shaker, a Rohingya leader in Cox’s Bazar stated that “The Rohingya have been seeking temporary shelter in Bangladesh only to save their lives from a genocide-like situation in Myanmar. For most of us, life as refugees is very hard in Bangladesh. Arakan (Rakhine), where our Rohingya community has lived for centuries, is our ancestral homeland. We want to go back to Arakan.”
Abul Hasan Mahmud Ali, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister told reporters last week that the Rohingya Muslims had started to enter the country by inaccessible and remote borders after the Myanmar military starts repression in Rakhine in October.
He also said that some extremely vulnerable cases were allowed to enter and were provided with food and treatment as they could not ignore them from a humanitarian point of view.
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Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Bangladesh wanted the Rohingyas to return to their homes in Rakhine. He also said that, “We shall try to host these people as long as possible. Then we shall start a dialogue with Myanmar so that they can return to their home. We hope Myanmar will take them back, eventually”.
Bangladeshi officials complained to the Myanmar ambassador about the violence in Rakhine last week which resulted in street protests Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand against Myanmar’s alleged persecution of Rohingya by Muslims.
The long existing problem
The Rohingya Muslims have been a target for violence since 1978 and have been escaping into Bangladesh and other countries and around 300,000 to 500,000 Rohingyas are residing in Bangladesh currently according to the government.
Mohammad Ismail, a 38-year-old Rohingya told VOA that, “After the Rakhine Buddhists burned my house, with my two children and wife I fled to Bangladesh four years ago. I do odd day-wage jobs to support my family. Often I go without a job. I live in a ramshackle shack and I think I can never escape this life of poverty here”. He also said that he had his own farmland and also owned a shop and if the situations change he would return to Arakan.
According to RFA, Myanmar’s former ruling party and 12 political parties met with the country’s National Defense and Security Council over the government’s management of the Rohingya crisis in North Rakhine.
The Myanmar government denied allegations that since the lockdown soldiers had committed rape, arson and extrajudicial killings in Rohingya. According to RFA, the state media reported that the security forces have taken more than 400 people into custody and around 70 have been killed.
-prepared by Shivam Thaker of NewsGram. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker