The EC issued a 10 point directive to its field officials to implement the measures on Thursday during a coordination meeting before collecting data to update the voter roll on Apr 23.
The 32 Upazilas in Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, and Chattogram have been declared ‘special areas’ for the upcoming survey, EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed told the media.
The EC has formed special 15-strong panels in these Upazilas headed by upazila nirbahi officers, or UNOs.
“We have taken the initiative to ensure that the Rohingyas are not included in the voter list. We have introduced a special voter registration form. Voters will only be enrolled under the recommendation of the special committee headed by the UNO in the special areas.”
The special upazilas with Rohingya habitants are: Sadar Upazila, Chakoria, Teknaf, Ramu, Pekua, Ukhiya, Maheshkhali, and Kutubdia in Cox’s Bazar; Sadar Upazila, Ruma, Thanchi, Boangchhari, Alikadam, Lama and Naikhangchhari in Bandarban; Sadar Upazila, Langdu, Rajasthali, Bilaichhari, Kaptai, Baghaichhari, Jurachhari, and Barkal in Rangamati; and Boalkhali, Patiya, Anowara, Chandanaish, Satkania, Lohagara, Bashkhali, Rangunia and Karnaphuli in Chattogram.
The EC has issued a directive requiring awareness programmes and campaigns to be conducted at the field level ahead of the upcoming voter list update, said the EC secretary.
Authorities have also been urged to run separate campaigns through students at educational institutes, imams at mosques, women and the local government ministry in an effort to include the common people.
Bangladesh needs a better plan for dealing with the refugee crisis
Bangladesh’s hosting of Rohingya refugees is unequaled in the current context of global anti-immigration sentiment.
It’s hard to comprehend how 165 million people are living in a land area equal to the state of Arkansas (where the population is only 3 million). Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries on planet Earth, with under $2,000 per capita, and still has given shelter to over a million refugees from Myanmar since 2017. The refugees have been crossing the Bangladeshi border since the early 90s, but this has escalated in recent years due to the premeditated massacres carried out against them.
After fleeing from the Rakhine state of Myanmar, 37,300 square kilometres of beautiful land by the Bay of Bengal, these million plus people are now living in cramped refugee camps in Bangladesh — roughly half a square metre per person. Perhaps dealing with poverty and disasters regularly has helped the Bangladeshi people not to feel threatened by these Rohingya who entered their country.
While we expect that the UN may be able to explain the reasoning behind this prolonged ineffectiveness to resolve the crisis, the clocks of these Rohingya people are not stopping. Hundreds of humanitarian organizations are already working on rehabilitation, education, and skills development for the refugees’ futures.
Organizations like BRAC are working to improve childhood education and are engaging with technologies to address subjects like mental health for healthy brain development. Even though the Bangladesh government had no other choice but to keep these refugees in a restricted small area, the Rohingya people cannot continue to live their lives this way.
They need to be outside the camps and explore opportunities on their own to live human experiences. Bangladeshi people have sacrificed tremendously to own their rights and speak their mother tongue and, because of this, they can help to preserve the Rohingya language, an essential step for the refugees’ psychosocial well-being.
A Malaysian inquiry into the 2015 discovery of suspected human-trafficking camps and graves in the jungle heard on Thursday (April 18) police found one of the sites months before the authorities publicly revealed their existence.
The public inquiry which began this week, is examining the conduct of law enforcement agencies with regard to the discovery of almost 150 graves and dozens of camps near the Thai border.
Malaysian authorities announced in May 2015 they had uncovered the sites in the north of the country, about a month after neighbouring Thailand said it had found bodies of Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis at a makeshift camp over the border.
The discovery prompted the Thai authorities to crack down on traditional sea routes for illegal migrants coming to the country, triggering a crisis as people-smugglers dumped hundreds of refugees off the coasts of other countries and fled.
On Thursday, the Malaysian inquiry heard from M. Joeking, a senior police official charged with guarding the border in part of northern Malaysian, who said the authorities found a camp in January 2015.
After hearing from a colleague about the camp in the jungle, he sent officers to raid the site in northern Perlis state where they discovered wooden cages and lookout posts, as well as graves and a stretcher to carry dead bodies.
Burmese Reuters correspondents Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained in December 2017. At the time of their arrest, they had been investigating the murder of ten Rohingya Muslim men and boys by police and soldiers in a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. In September 2018, they were sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly breaking the Official Secrets Act, a law dating back to the colonial era. In January 2019, a Myanmar court rejected their appeal, calling the seven-year prison term “a suitable punishment”. The defense team for the two journalists now has the option of making a further appeal to Myanmar’s Supreme Court.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo “supported the establishment of truth in Rakhine, nothing else,” said a spokesperson of the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. Yet, several appeals for their release have been denied.
Wa Lone missed the birth of his first child while in prison and still has not met his daughter. Kyaw Soe Oo also has a young daughter.
It’s high tide in Cox’s Bazar and there’s a traffic jam right on the beach at Bangladesh’s most prominent seaside resort. The lone road that leads south to the sprawling new camps sheltering hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees is closed for repairs. All the traffic has been diverted onto the gray sand beach, where people are taking selfies and strolling in the shallow surf.
Little green rickshaws jostle with passenger vans and pickup trucks to get over a sand dune and back onto the paved roadway to head in the direction of the camps. At high tide, some of the vehicles get stuck in the wet sand, blocking those behind them.
The sudden influx of 700,000 refugees in 2017 has had a huge negative impact on the local community, says Mohammad Abul Kalam, the head of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission in Cox’s Bazar.
“We’re being outnumbered by the sheer number of the refugee population,” he says.
Beyond this, “The infrastructure has been under unbelievable pressure,” Kalam says — not just from the refugees themselves, but also from the tremendous aid effort underway to keep so many people sheltered, fed and healthy.
Kalam is the Bangladesh government’s top local official regarding the Rohingya. He says the area’s roads and bridges are being beaten up by convoys of aid vehicles shuttling from Cox’s Bazar to the camps.
“They were not meant for this much population,” he says.
Kalam points out that Ukhiya, the administrative district that includes the camps, has a population of 230,000 people. “Yet we now have more than 700,000 in the refugee population,” he says. “So the entire demographic balance has been reversed.”
Myanmar’s Rakhine state government has banned state employees from collecting donations to help thousands of residents displaced by hostilities between national forces and the rebel Arakan Army (AA), fearing that the funds are being diverted to the ethnic fighters, according to an internal memo issued by the state’s education department.
The memo dated April 5 instructed education department employees to refrain from gathering donations for internally displaced persons (IDPs), citing concerns that some of the money is being passed on to the AA to assist the ethnic army in its battle for greater autonomy in Rakhine state.
When contacted by RFA’s Myanmar Service, state education official Aung Than Myint confirmed the news and said he issued the departmental circular per the state government’s instructions.
Police in Rakhine have also been stopping local NGOs from collecting money in some areas of the state, much to the indignation of local residents who want to provide humanitarian aid to some of the estimated 31,000 people who have fled their homes due to the armed conflict.
Government officials have not permitted many international and domestic relief groups to operate in the state, except for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Food Programme.
Jewish groups applauded the introduction of a bipartisan bill in the Senate to sanction Burmese officials responsible for the persecution of the Rohingya people.
The legislation calls for the United States to take a number of measures in response to the violence against the Rohingya perpetrated by the Burmese government.Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Todd Young, R-Ind., introduced the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act on Thursday. It was co-sponsored by 14 lawmakers.
The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, a coalition of 19 groups convened by the American Jewish World Service and representing major Jewish organizations and the four major denominations, had lobbied for the bill. Last month, AJWS brought a group of American rabbis to Congress to speak to their representatives about the importance for action on the issue. AJWS also facilitated meetings between its partner organizations in Burma and the lawmakers behind the bill.
Some 700,000 Rohingya people, most of whom are Muslims, have fled Burma, which is also called Myanmar, for Bangladesh amid persecution. Refugees and human rights groups say they are being ethnically cleansed by the army in the majority Buddhist country.In December, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said it found “compelling evidence” of genocide by Myanmar’s military against the minority group and the House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring the crimes a genocide. However, the State Department has stopped short of doing so.
AJWS Program Officer Hannah Weilbacher, who has helped lead the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, invoked the Holocaust in speaking about the importance of a Jewish response to the events in Burma.
At a small health clinic in the Kutupalong refugee camps in Bangladesh, Somadu Katu is clutching her 3 ½-year-old son, Yassin.
Yassin is wailing. He’s running a fever and there are small red dots all over his body. Katu is terrified.
“I’m scared because my baby is very young so he is not able to tolerate the pain,” Katu says.
Katu says her son started getting sick about four days earlier. At first, the 35-year-old Rohingya mom thought it was just a common cold. And then the menacing rash emerged.
Yassin’s older sister also got sick. Katu had no idea what this disease was or how bad it might get.
Late in 2017, Katu and her family fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape attacks by pro-government militias. They’ve ended up in the camps outside Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh with nearly 700,000 other refugees.
Kabir says chickenpox does exist in Myanmar. But he says the Rohingya were so isolated that many may have never been exposed to it. What is clear, Kabir says, is that the Rohingya had very limited access to health care before they arrived in Bangladesh.
“They didn’t get any vaccines,” he says. “Before coming here they don’t have any idea about vaccines.”
And not just the chickenpox vaccine. Kabir says the Rohingya weren’t getting the basic childhood immunizations that the World Health Organization has been recommending since the 1970s: vaccines for easily preventable diseases like diphtheria, measles, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.
“These people were not treated well,” he says. “The Myanmar military regime are not at all bothered with [providing health care for] these people.”
He made the comment in his first bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in Washington Monday.
They discussed “increasing economic, security, and counterterrorism cooperation” between Bangladesh and US, according to a State Department statement.
The secretary lauded Bangladesh’s generosity in continuing to host one million Rohingya refugees from Burma, and emphasised how we will work with the international community to increase support for the refugees and host communities, while addressing root causes and conditions in Burma.
The Bangladesh foreign ministry said issues featuring in the meeting were repatriation of the Rohingyas and creation of credible international pressure on Myanmar in that respect, deportation of Bangabandhu’s killer Rashed Chowdhury from US to Bangladesh, shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, US investments in Bangladesh, duty and quota free access of Bangladesh’s garments products in the US market and US-Bangladesh partnership in multiple sectors.
On the Rohingya issue, the foreign ministry said the Secretary of State “reassured that the one million plus forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals have to return to Myanmar without any form of fear and persecution”.
“It is the responsibility of the Myanmar government and military to create conducive environment so that the Rohingyas feel safe to return home,” he asserted.
He also reiterated the US would stand beside Bangladesh both politically and financially in finding a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis.
Momen informed him that Bangladesh at its own expense has developed the island “Bhashan Char” into a livable place in which 100,000 Rohingyas are planned to be relocated in coordination with UN agencies and different aid groups.
He sought US support to the creation of a safe zone in Rakhine State monitored by international human rights groups.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Saturday on the hills adjoining the Muchni Rohingya refugee camp at the Upazila’s Hnila Union, said Teknaf Police OC Pradip Kumar Das.
The dead are Nur Alam, 23, Mohammed Zubair, 20, and Hamid Ullah, 20.
The three were members of a robbery gang based in the refugee camp. They were fugitives implicated
in multiple cases, including murder, robbery and kidnapping, with the police.
Nur Alam, Zubair and Hamid were arrested near the Muchni refugee camp on Friday evening, said OC Pradip.
After interrogating the three, a police team launched a raid on the hilly areas adjacent to
the camp to recovers arms with the suspects in tow.
“When the police arrived at the scene, their accomplices opened fire at them. The police retaliated and at one point, Nur Alam, Zubair and Hamid were shot in the crossfire.”
They were rushed to the Teknaf Health Complex, where doctors on duty declared them dead.
Three policemen were also injured in the gunfight, he added.
Police recovered four guns and seven rounds of bullets from the scene.