Myanmar: Rohingya Boat Refugees Left Floating by Bangladesh Government

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

Besides India, Myanmar is the other country which shares a border with Bangladesh. People in the border areas share similar languages and religions. Recently, the Rohingyas of Myanmar started fleeing from their homes on boats because of local ethnic riots in the Rakhine province and are now seeking refuge in neighboring Bangladesh; however, the government of Bangladesh is not letting them in, leaving them floating on the sea with their lives in peril.

After the severe ethnic riots the Rohingya minorities had no choice but to leave their villages to save their lives. They left everything behind and tried to enter Bangladesh through the porous borders. The land borders are not accessible easily, so they are using the waterways of the Naf river.

The Government of Bangladesh has taken a hard stance by reiterating that they are going to stop Rohingyas from trespassing. International human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently requested Bangladesh to open the border for the Rohingyas.

The United Nation’s refugee related organization (UNHCR) made the same request, but the government of Bangladesh has stuck to its policy. As a consequence these poor refugees are floating on the sea in uncertain and dangerous conditions.

Members of the Protest Rohingya Initiative hold banners and images of those caught up in the violence. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix.

Members of the Protest Rohingya Initiative hold banners and images of those caught up in the violence. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix.

According to local newspapers, 768 Rohingyas were arrested and sent back while trying to enter Bangladesh. But they could also not go back to Myanmar because death awaits them there. So they are floating in the ocean on small boats.

Nasiruddin Hozza explains the position of the Bangladesh government and the realities for the Rohingyas:

Long ago Myanmar’s military regime declared that people from Arakan and rakhine state of present Myanmar are migrants from Bangladesh. For this reason if they cross over to Bangladesh, they will never be welcomed in Myanmar again. On the contrary, Mayanmar would find more grounds to name them as Bengali immigrants in the future. And this would clearly create more complications between these two countries.

Bangladesh, being an over-populated country, had given shelter to about half a million Rohingya refugees in 1978 who entered through Bangladesh border. The Myanmar government didn’t agree with this number quoted by Bangladesh government when some of them were repatriated later. So a large number of Rohingyas had to stay behind in Bangladesh, with no place to go. Now, the influx of more Rohingya refugees would definitely affect the social and economic conditions of the country.

More so there is rumor that the Islamic opposition party Jamat-e-islami is arming a section of the Rohingya refugees. So the government is strictly not in favor to let the Rohingya problems grow.

Here’s Nasiruddin Hojja explaining why the Rohingyas are interested in migrating to Bangladesh:

The Rohingya minorities in Myanmar are away from this politics and this is a case of their survival. An accusation against a Rohingya, that he raped a Rakhine lady, instigated attacks and counter-attacks in between Rakhine tribe and Rohingya tribe. That unleashed the hell for the Bengali speaking Arakanese and the Muslim minorities in bordering states.

They are running away from home, because they know they need to save their lives. Leaving behind all their belongings they are trying to enter a country by boat, which isn’t their own, where no relatives live. It is quite a tough job to climb mountains and trek in the hilly roads to cross land borders, so they are simply sailing on a boat on the Naf river (which is on the border) trying to find a shelter in Bangladesh.

Thousands of unregistered Rohingya refugees, who have left behind the persecution they faced in Myanmar and who are now caught in a trap between Myanmar and Bangladesh, stateless, unregistered, without food and lacking work. Image by Rajibul Islam. Copyright Demotix

Thousands of unregistered Rohingya refugees, who have left behind the persecution they faced in Myanmar and who are now caught in a trap between Myanmar and Bangladesh, stateless, unregistered, without food and lacking work. Image by Rajibul Islam. Copyright Demotix

He writes, but their miseries are not ending anytime soon:

Though they are coming here by boat, they aren’t being able to dock in the quay. The Bangladesh Border Guards are blocking the way, who are bound to carry out their orders. They are actually serving them with food and water as much as they can and forcing them to drift towards the sea.

Even though the Bangladesh Government is against the Rohingya refugees because of political reasons, a huge part of the population is on the Rohingays side only for the sake of humanity.

Arif from Somewhereinblog writes why people from Arakans are heading towards Bangladesh:

There is a riot going on in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims. The weak Buddhists are running away to different places for shelter, and the Muslims are not welcome in those places. Thus they are migrating to Bangladesh for shelter.

He thinks that rejecting those refugees is an act of inhumanity:

‘Bangladesh is unable to take the refugees inside the Border due to some problems’ the statement isn’t false at all. But do we lack that much mercy in our heart to point those people towards a definite death?

Anowar Hossain Farmer wrote in his Facebook Page:

It is impossible to direct the Rohingya women and children towards death, if there is even a tiny bit of humanity in us. Everybody has the right for their lives, all over the world. Any civilized man can understand the fact.

We have to remember that, this is not a business matter, rather a duty from the call for humanity.

Many people believe that many Myanmar citizens are to blame for the miseries of the Rohingyas. So Tomdachi suggested a solution that he came up with:

Though the riot was basically between Rohingyas and rakhines, the whole Myanmar population is siding with the rakhines. Some of my Burmese friends are putting up accusations against the Rohingyas in the internet. In their words, Rohingyas are Bangladeshis, and they are doing terrorism in Myanmar, they have burnt 20 rakhine villages so far and etc. On the other hand the Rohigyas are illiterate and disadvantaged. They don’t have anyone to take their side and fight back. So we should help them voice their opinions as much as possible.

A blogger name Amra Kather Dheki posted two pictures and wrote on Somewherein blog:

Please see these two pictures. These were taken in different times and in different context but both the pictures are expressing the same language. An appeal for helping distress people: their eyes shows uncertainty, pain of losing everything, hunger is being reflected in their eyes..

The first picture was taken during the liberation war of Bangladesh (A baby is crying on it’s mother’s lap) and the second one was taken recently when many Rohingya people were driven away from their own country and they trespassed through the waterway to take refugee in the neighboring Bangladesh. Please compare those babies. Innocent, tired, hungry and then falling asleep. provided a report on a Rohingya infant rescued from an abandoned boat:

BGB troops rescued one Rohingya infant on Wednesday at noon from an abandoned boat in Naf river. They handed over that devastated female child to a Bangladeshi family in Teknaf. The members of that family are looking after that infant and they informed that the infant is terribly sick and unfit.

This family is not only trying to save a child, but trying to save humanity from its extinction, and it is nessecery for this cruel world.

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


  • boxer boxer

    Sea is still left for self claimed Rohingyas while there’s NOTHING left for Rakhine (Arakanese) who are getting robbed their own land and getting tortured inhumanely.

  • As far as I am concerned, the Rohingyas who live inside the country don’t bother to be an ethnic race. They just want to be recognized as citizens and live like others with all human rights! To make Burma a peaceful country, there shouldn’t be any discriminations between ethnic races and normal citizens. All the rule of laws should be maintained according to universal standards.I have a good knowledge about Arakan as I have been in Maung Daw for two years as a NGO worker. And I had good rapports with both people: Rakhines and Rohingyas.  If no one minds, I wish to share you what I know of Arakan.

    Yes it is true that there was no such a name called Rohingya in the history of Arakan. British has recorded Muslims in Arakan as Chittagonians. So, in everyone’s opinion, this is the rightest term Biritish used for Muslims in Arakan. So, British’s records are most correct. If so, what term did the British use for Buddhists in Arakan? Rakhine? Obviously not! If yes, is there any evidence for the fact that British refered the Buddhists in Arakan as Rakhines? British are right and honest because they refered Muslims in Arakan as Chittagonians. The same British are wrong and dis-honest  because they refered Buddists in Arakan as Maghs. Why double standards? 

    Put aside both religions, Islam and Buddhism, and both names, Rakhine and Rohingya here. Let me put some logical arguments. Everyone will agree if we say that there were the periods called Dhannyawadi and Vesali in the history of Arakan. No one will deny this. OK, then.  Can anybody tell us that the kings or rulers in these two historical periods, which dated back to more than 2000 years, belonged to which stocks of human race, Indo-Aryan (i.e. Indian-look-alike people) or Mongoloid (Mongolian look-alike people)? What are the meanings of terms Dhannyawadi and Vesali (Vaishali)? From which language these terms were derived from? In which stock of human race did Siddartha Gautama Buddha and most of earliest follwers, because of whom Buddhistism had spreaded throughout the region, belong to? 

    We know there was a people called Rakkhasha (in Pali meaning Cannibals) who used to eat even human beings who are stragers to them. The word has varied through historical periods from Rakkhasha to Rakkha to Rakkuain now to Rakhine. According to some other people, Rakhine was derived from Pali word Rakkhita (meaning people who look after and take care of their race). Yet, it doesn’t matter to me. According to the historians, the place was called Rakkhapura (again in Pali). Has the whole region of Arakan including Chittagong area been called so? Have the cannibals used to live throughout the whole region? How did these Rakkhasha people look alike, mongoloid, aryan, caucasians, negroid? Why was a Pali word “Rakkhasha” used to address cannibals? Who named these cannibals as Rakkhasha by using a Pali word? Wasn’t there be a paralell people to Rakkasha, who named them so using Pali word? Or have they named them “Rakkhasha” (cannibals) by theirselves using a Pali word? Was Pali the language of cannibals? Wasn’t Pali an Indian literature and language? Isn’t it originated to India? 

    Indo-Arayan people have been living in Arakan since B.C. 3323 according to the book with the title “Za Lok Kay Pho Lay?” (written by San Kyaw Tuan, (Maha Wizza), a Rakhine from Rathedaung, foreworded by the late Dr. Aye Kyaw and contributed by scholars like Dr. Aye Chan, Khin Maung Saw) page No. 81]. Who were these Indo-Aryans? Were not they forefathers of the people called Rohingya today? In which group of human stocks did Rakhines fall, Indo-Aryan or Mongolian? However, it can’t also denied that Rohingyas have the mixture of Bengalis who came to Myanmar during British colonial period. 

    Furthermore, we think everybody knows Mexico and Argentina, people there are of spainish origin and speak spainish language. Why don’t people call them Spainish instead of Mexican and Argentinian? Americans speak English language and most them are of English. Why don’t people call them English in stead of Americans? The father of Obama was from Kenya but Obama is the president of US now.

    The word “Rohingya” is a slight variation of the word “Ruahonga” (in Rakhine meaning “from old village”) because the place where Rohingyas used to live was called Ruahong. Rohingyas have the habit of calling someone by the place name where they live. For example, if somebody is from Man-Aung, he will be called as Man-Aunggya, if from RatheThaung, then RatheThaungya and if from ButhiTaung, then Buthi-Thaungya etc. The word Rohingya has formed exactly the way Rakhine has formed from Rakkhasha. 

    In history, Rohingya didn’t feel to call them as Rohingya because the situation and the time had not forced them to call so. It doesn’t mean that this people didn’t exist before. So, if someone says there is no word as Rohingya in the history of Arakan, then there is no word as Rakhine either. I have just put a logical argument here. We, many people in our Myanmar society have become mentally sick. That’s reason why we are too xenophobic of people of other race. We simply can’t tolerate any race besides Mongoloid. We need to grow up a lot in order to have a peaceful, prosperous and developed nation.

    Coming to the present situation, it is true that some of them tried to separate a part of Arakan and combine with east Pakistan at the time of independence. But not all of them demanded for it. Some of them even opposed those who were trying to do so. They were promised all the rights and citizenship and now they want live in Myanmar. Besides, most of the minorities in Myanmar have been trying for their independence because they feel that they will not be treated equally under Bama rulings. Even now, Kachin crisis is going on! And the Military is killing the civilians as usual! 

    We need to understand the plot done by the regime! Today, Thein Sein regime is facing so many critical problems such as demands to immediately stop the genocidal war in Kachin, Myitsone Dam crisis, Electricity crisis, Water Crisis, labors’ and farmers demonstrations and extreme poverty in the country. When they are unable to solve these crises, the only way remaining for them is to divert people’s minds from the current crises by triggering racial and religious riots. The regime’s know well that when it comes to religion, most of the Myanmar people tend to be intolerant. 

    Creating a riot between Rakhines and Muslims and they themselves behaving like Chaung Thu Daw pretending as if they are protecting the people will be a good tactic for them. Therefore, the whole riot has been being masterminded by the USDA regime to gain political advantage by taking innocent people’s lives (both of Rakhines and Muslims). Since Rakhines are not in good terms with Muslims, they have found a motive in them that can be useful for the regime. That’s what they have done. It is an effort by them to go back to the previous ruling system and make NLD into blacklist of some people since NLD can no way support the massacres as it is led by Daw Suu. But most of the people of Myanmar don’t use their brains in these kinds of matters and go with emotions. Rather, I’d like to say we are too dumb to understand regime’s plan.

    Many of our people call all Rohingyas terrorists as a whole. On what basis? May be because their scholars dress like Arabs or Afghanis? What is the definition of the terrorist? It is quite natural that, when one is severely persecuted and made unemployed, he or she might have tendency to behave like a terrorist or join terrorist. So far, no terrorism occurred in Arakan due to them. The only terrorists there are Military. As far as Ma Thida Tway’s case concerned, all the criminals whoever have done this must be punished according to law and I strongly condemn this. But it doesn’t mean that we need to go and kill all other innocent people of same religion or race. We have the law. In fact, criminals and terrorists have no religions or race but they just manipulate them. Recently, there have been at least two rape cases in Yangon and one of them was against a young boy. What about them? Were they made a mountain out of a molehill? In fact, rapes happen everywhere and every rapist must be punished according to the law. But the bitter truth here is that the culprits of all the problems in Arakan today are none other than military itself.

    I strongly support all the insecurity being felt by Rakhine brothers of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. But we need to let the law take care of this matter. We can’t be so rampant and kill other people even though he or she is illegal. But why should Bangladeshis still come to a land ruled by an oppressive government, where there is less economic opportunity and infrastructures are very poor? To Islamize Myanmar? Laughable indeed! Can 4% of Muslims convert 89% of Buddhists into Islam in the country? If we feel so, we are really feeling insecure! And we have a good reason to feel insecure. That is we are not practising our own religion, Buddhism which teaches peace and to win everyone with Metta (loving-kindness). The edict not to kill or inflict pains on others is integral to Buddhist thought! Instead, we have turned into a fanatic unbuddhist way and have portrayed Buddhism otherwise.    

  • […] Bangladesh,Myanmar: The Sea Is Left For The Rohingyas – Global Voices Online […]

  • naz

    I am so disgusted on my own race. I am an american born bengali and i have to say i am disgusted of my people after reading this article. As a muslim you want to help others in need how can you let these people starve to death. But its okay when the time comes allah will punish the wrong doers

    • ziaush shams

      naz or whatever. Who says you are Bengali? You are an American by birth and your parents must have gotten disgusted with their race and moved to America to earn  two pice. Why dont you try to serve the interest of your motherland and give us, the Bengali race, a break. And please try to understand the problem before passing this kind of remarks. By the way, there are thousands of Bengalis who are American by birth but they neither get disgusted with us nor do they pass irresposible remarks.

  • […] in the country, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to the neighboring countries including Bangladesh and […]

  • […] Our special coverage of  Myanmar's Rohingya, gave voice to perspectives from the Rohingya, the Rakhine and from across the border in Bangladesh. […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.