Bangladesh: Keep Border Open For Rohingya Refugees

This post is part of our special coverage Myanmar's Rohingya.

After a recent sectarian violence between Rohingya and Rakhaine in Western Mayanmar, Bangladesh has ordered its border guards, coast guards and local administration to heighten vigilance along its border with Myanmar anticipating an influx of refugees. The decision certainly surprised the human rights groups and the UN as the country is already sheltering hundreds of thousands of Rohinga refugees who crossed the border due to repression during the last three decades. Bangladeshi netizens questions the decision of the government on humane grounds, though admitting as well that the country is incapable of hosting more refugees.

Rohingya minorities are considered as the most persecuted group in Asia. About 800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar, and 200,000 are living in miserable conditions in Bangladesh as a refugees. Rohingya blogger reports:

Discrimination against the Rohingyas has never been subtle. They are not allowed to travel within Myanmar, nor to serve in the police—technically, they do not even have citizenship (though this has been questioned in parliament). But their persecution has suddenly turned fervid. [..]

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since Burma’s independence, fleeing racial and religious persecution not just at the hands of their Buddhist countrymen, the Buddhist Rakhines, but also the Burmese national authorities.

Many Rohingyas are migrating to Bangladesh due to unstable situation in Myanmar. Image by Khamin. Copyright Demotix.

These people are also being persecuted online calling them as “Bengalis”, notes Rohingya blogger:

Many of the comments posted online call for ethnic cleansing.

Todd Pitman posts the background about this hatred in Huffington post:

The Myanmar government regards Rohingyas mostly as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, even though many of their families have lived in Myanmar for generations. Bangladesh rejects them just as stridently.

Myanmar's consul general in Hong Kong – now a U.N. ambassador – described the Rohingya as “ugly as ogres” in an open letter to diplomats in which he compared their “dark brown” skin to that of the “fair and soft” ethnic Burmese majority. [..]

One Burmese actress posted “I hate them 100%” on her Facebook wall on Monday as the fires burned. By Thursday, her comment had nearly 250 “likes.”

The Bangladeshi netizens are divided on this issue as intense debate is ensuing on how to help solve the problem. Blogger Probir Bidhan reminded that 10 million Bangladeshi refugees were sheltered by India during the country's liberation war and most of them returned. He urged to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh [bn]:

এদের চিকিৎসা নিশ্চিত করুন এবং দাঙ্গা না থামা পর্যন্ত কিছুদিনের জন্য এদের থাকতে দিন;পাশাপাশি এখন থেকেই কূটনৈতিক কার্যক্রমকে এগিয়ে নিন। যেন পরিস্থিতি শান্ত হলে সকল শরনার্থীদের ফেরত পাঠানো যায়।

Please ensure medical treatment to them (Rohinga refugees) and let them stay for a few days till the riots come to an end. Simultaneously please go ahead with diplomatic negotiations so that the refugees can be sent back after the situation calms down.

Sultan Mirza points [bn] that many Rohingya refugees are living in deplorable conditions in Bangladesh camps which has not improved even after receiving the UN and other international aids. He wrote,

শরনার্থী শিবিরে রোহিঙ্গারা বসবাস করছে মানবেতর অবস্থায়। বাংলাদেশে আশ্রয় নেওয়া রোহিঙ্গারা বিভিন্ন ধরনের অপরাধমূলক কর্মকান্ডে জড়িয়ে পড়ছে। কক্সবাজার, টেকনাফ সীমান্ত এলাকায় রোহিঙ্গা শরণার্থীরা যুক্ত হয়ে পড়েছে মাদক ব্যবসায়ের সাথে। চোরাপথে অস্ত্র ও মাদক ব্যবসায়ে রোহিঙ্গাদের সম্পৃক্ততার প্রমাণ আছে। তাছাড়া দেশে জঙ্গী শক্তি বিকাশে রোহিঙ্গারা সম্পৃক্ত তারও প্রমাণ আছে।

In the refugee camps, Rohingyas are living miserably. Few of them had indulged into criminal activities. In the border of Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf they are involved in drug peddling. Their involvement in gun smuggling and drug trafficking has been proven. There are evidences of their linkage with the Islamic militancy.

Uttar Purush commented on that post criticizing the UN for not been able to send the Rohingyas from the refugee camps back to Myanmar in decades and revealed a popular conspiracy theory:

বাংলাদেশের জামাত ও জামাত পন্থী গোষ্ঠী সমূহ এবং কিছু আরব দেশ কিন্তু খানিকটে বাড়িয়েই চিন্তা করছে গত কয়েক দশক যাবত আর সেটি হচ্ছে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম ও আরাকানকে নিয়ে একটি মুসলিম রাষ্ট্র গঠন করার পরিকল্পনা।

Jamat-e-Islami (an Islamic Party in Bangladesh) and it’s alliances with support form few Middle Eastern countries have a plan to create a Muslim Country comprising of Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh) and Arakan (Burma).

Islami Chhatra Morcha conduct a procession in the city protesting against the killing of Rohingya muslims in Myanmar. Hundreds of Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar tried to enter Bangladesh, but many were turned away. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (June 14, 2012)

The Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni has recently told in parliament [bn] that Myanmar has complained to Bangladesh that Jamaat-e-Islami is creating unrest in Myanmar by instigating violence through Rohingyas. She also urged the international aid agencies to help the Rohingyas inside Myanmar as sanctions have already been lifted from Myanmar.

Blogger & poet Bratya Raisu wrote in his facebook criticizing the government move to not accept the refugees in distress on the ground that some of them are involved in crime. Digital Sannashi questions:

রোহিঙ্গাদের রক্তের রঙ কি কালো? সব রোহিঙ্গা কি অপরাধী? নিষ্পাপ শিশুগুলো ও কি ইয়াবা পাচার করে?

Is the color of the Rohingya blood black? Is every Rohingya criminal? Do innocent children also smuggle Yaba (a popular intoxicating drug from Burma)?

Blogger Syed Riaz [bn] wrote about the history of Rohingya influx in Bangladesh which begun during World War-II. When Japan invaded Burma, Rohingyas were in the side of British Forces. Later while occupying the Arakan, Japanese troups killed Rohingyas indiscriminately. 40 thousand Rohinga fled into Chittagong hill tracts under the then British regime.

Syed Riaz also added that during 1991-1992 another phase of persecution took place and more than 250,000 Rohingyas crossed the border. If nobody gives them shelter, where this homeless Rohinga will go?

Maniruzzaman Sazal wites [bn]:

আমি নিজেও চাই না ওরা মারা যাক। কিন্তু আমরা আর কত করবো? জাতিসংঘ এগিয়ে আসা মানে বাংলাদেশও এগিয়ে আসা। বাংলাদেশ জাতিসংঘের বাইরে নয়। আর অন্যদিকে জাতিসংঘ বাংলাদেশের উপর দায়িত্ব চাপিয়ে দিয়ে নিজেদের দায়িত্বকে এড়িয়ে যাচ্ছে।

I do not want them to die. But how long we will be supporting the Rohingyas? If UN comes forward for a solution that means Bangladesh is coming forward as well, because Bangladesh is a part of UN. But the UN is putting all responsibility on Bangladesh's shoulder and ignoring their responsibility.

Poet and blogger Tokon Thakur criticized [bn] Myanmar opposition leader Aung Saan Suu kyi in his facebook status:

মিয়ানমার বা প্রতিবেশি বাংলাদেশ রোহিঙ্গাদের নিজেদের নাগরিক বলে স্বীকার করে না। মিয়ানমার সরকার ও বার্মিজ জাতির অনেকেই তাদের ‘রোহিঙ্গা’ বলেও স্বীকার করে না,তাদের ‘বাঙালি’ হিসেবে চিহ্নিত করে।'কী দুর্ভাগ্য এই মানুষগুলোর! এদের একটি দেশ নেই! তাহলে পৃথিবীর সঙ্গে ‘রোহিঙ্গা’দের সম্পর্কটা কী? একজন রোহিঙ্গা শিশু পৃথিবীকে কীভাবে দেখছে আজ? মন খুব বিষণ্ন হয়ে যাচ্ছে আমার। নোবেল বিজয়ী মার্কিনী গণতন্ত্রের উজ্জয়িনী অং সান সুচি এখন ব্যস্ত ইউরোপ সফরে।

Myanmar or neighboring Bangladesh do not consider Rohingyas as their citizen. Many from Myanmar government and many citizens don’t consider them as Rohingya either, they call them Bengalis. What a misfortune of these people! They don’t have a country! After that what is the relation between Rohingya and the earth? How does a Rohingya child look at the world today? I am saddened. Nobel laureate Aung Saan Suu Kyi, motivated by American style democracy, is now busy with her tour to Europe (with no words of protest against these crimes).

In fact Suu Kyi has called for clarity of Myanmar citizenship laws after the recent violence. Habib Siddiqui writes an open letter to Daw Aung Saan Suu Kyie to address Rohingya's demand for equality in citizenship rights.

You can sign petitions here & here if you want to request the Bangladesh government not to close the door on Rohingyas.

This post is part of our special coverage Myanmar's Rohingya.


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