Reports of shootings, allegedly by Myanmar police, at a camp for Rohingya refugees in Rakhine state have sparked concern by United Nations officials.
Knut Ostby, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, tweeted that he is “deeply concerned about the reports of shooting in Ah Nauk Ye camp in central #Rakhine, #Myanmar which holds IDPs who fled violence in 2012. I call for calm, non-violence and restraint. ”
The Reuters news agency quotes eyewitnesses as saying Myanmar police shot and injured four Rohingyas Sunday, while detaining two men accused of smuggling people out of a camp for displaced people in western Rakhine state.
The report said about 20 police descended on Ah Nauk Ye camp, 15 kilometers east of the state’s capital Sittwe, and apprehended the two men who were accused of owning the “rickety vessel,” used in an attempt to smuggle 160 people, including 25 children, out of the camp. The watercraft was stopped south of Yangoon.
An eyewitness told Reuters that when the police came into the camp “people from the camp went out to look and police shot at people.”
The police, however, told the news agency that Rohingyas surrounded them with swords and threw stones at them. “I heard that Bengali from the camp tried to grab the arrested people back from the police and police had to fire warning shots,” police inspector Than Htay from a nearby police station, said.
People from Myanmar call the Rohingya Muslims “Bengali,” implying they are from Bangladesh and not from Myanmar.
None of the first Rohingya Muslims on a list to return to Myanmar showed up at their departure points in Bangladesh Thursday, the first day they were scheduled to be sent back under a repatriation agreement between the two nations.
About 150 Rohingya refugees were slated to be transported from the crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar back to northern Rakhine state, the region where they and more than 700,000 others escaped in August 2017 from a scorched earth campaign by Myanmar’s military in response to a series of attacks committed by Rohingya militants. Some of the refugees on the list are believed to have gone into hiding to avoid being sent back.
Meanwhile, about 1,000 angry Rohingyas, including children, demonstrated against the repatriation effort at one of the camps.
Bangladesh Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told reporters that the refugees cannot be forced to return to Myanmar under the terms of the agreement.
Human rights groups are calling on Myanmar and Bangladesh to end their plans to send Rohingya Muslims back to Rakhine State, where the United Nations says they are subject to extrajudicial killings and other atrocities carried out by Myanmar’s military.
Amnesty International called the organized return of the Rohingya a “reckless move, which puts lives at risk.”
“These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar military’s grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s East and Southeast Asia director.
Bill Frelick, the refugee rights director for Human Rights Watch, said Dhaka “will be stunned to see how quickly international opinion turns against it if it starts sending unwilling Rohingya refugees back into harm’s way in Myanmar.”
A special U.N. fact-finding mission said the military acted “with genocidal intent” against the Rohingyas, citing numerous atrocities such as extrajudicial killings, gang rapes and the torching of entire villages. (VOA)