YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar was making final preparations to take back the first batch of Rohingya Muslims who had fled conflict in troubled Rakhine state, state media said on Saturday, despite growing doubts about the plan among refugees and in the United Nations.
YANGON – 23 January 2018: Myanmar blamed Bangladesh on Tuesday for delays to a huge repatriation programme for Rohingya refugees, as the deadline passed for starting the return of the Muslim minority to strife-torn Rakhine state.
Nearly 690,000 Rohingya escaped to Bangladesh after a brutal Myanmar army crackdown began last August, while a further 100,000 fled an earlier bout of violence in October 2016.
In signs the unrest was continuing despite the repatriation plans, Bangladesh officials said Tuesday a huge fire burned and gunshots were heard in a village in Rakhine.
Myanmar agreed that from January 23 it would start taking those refugees who had fled since 2016 back from the squalid camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh where they have sought shelter.
But a Bangladeshi official said Monday the programme would not begin as planned. Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said there was much more preparatory work to be done.
Another Rohingya man was stabbed to death by some miscreants at Balukhali Rohingya camp in Ukhia upazila of Cox’s Bazar early Monday.
The deceased was identified as Yousuf Ali, 50, a resident of D block of the camp. He worked as Imam at a mosque of the camp area.
Some assailants attacked Yousuf when he went out his tent for calling for prayer (Azan) early in the morning and stabbed him, leaving him dead on the spot, said Abul Khayer, officer-in-charge (OC) of Ukhia Police Station.
Earlier on Friday night, a Rohingya man was gunned down by some unidentified miscreants at a Rohingya camp in Thaingkhali area in the.
The gradual repatriation of more than 650,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar from Bangladesh has been postponed amid widespread fears that refugees would be forced to return against their will, a Bangladeshi official has said.
“The main thing is that the process has to be voluntary,” said Abul Kalam, the refugee and repatriation commissioner. He added that paperwork for returning refugees had not yet been finalised and transit camps had yet to be built in Bangladesh.
Myanmar had announced that the repatriation process would begin on Tuesday, two months after the signing of the first agreement on returns, on 23 November. Bangladeshi officials, however, have appeared reluctant to confirm a start date.
On Sunday, AH Mahmood Ali, Bangladesh’s foreign minister, told a press conference he could not could not give a specific day. “The process is ongoing,” he said. “You will see when it begins.”….
Mustafa Khatun has fled her native Myanmar three times.
The first time, in the 1970s, she was a girl.
Her family was repatriated.
The second time, in the 1990s, she was a wife.
Again, she and her husband were repatriated from a refugee camp in Bangladesh, back to Myanmar.
Now, she is in her late 50s, and mother to 10 children.
In August, she was again forced to flee violence at the hands of the Myanmar army.
A woman with a gentle face and soft eyes, she sobs as she recounts the story.
Starving for days, she says.
Running with her children. Hiding in the forest.
This time, she says, she is not going back.
“I don’t want to go back, I’m not interested in going back, even if I am beaten or killed. They can kill us here,” she says.
“They persecuted us a lot, killed, burnt whole families, raped them.
“We cannot sleep because of this nightmare.
“I am happy for my children to grow up in Bangladesh, but I am not happy if they grow up in Myanmar, there is always fear and unhappiness there.”
Humanitarian conditions in camps hosting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are set to worsen in the next few months, a human rights investigator has told Al Jazeera, while also raising concerns about a plan to repatriate the fleeing minority back to Myanmar.
In an interview from Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Yanghee Lee, a UN special rapporteur who was banned from visiting Myanmar, said that with Bangladesh’s monsoon season approaching, the crammed camps “will be witnessing landslides and we may see a huge number of casualties”.
Lee also warned of the possibility of an “outbreak of diseases” that would spread due to heavy rainfall, which may become “impossible to contain from spreading elsewhere”.
Crew and cast members including star Michelle Keegan, 30, were furious at the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims, described as “one of the most persecuted minorities in the world”.
Around 100 were picked for episodes in the next series of the BBC1 show filmed in Malaysia, which borders their war-torn home nation of Myanmar.
More than 60,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Malaysia where they live in impoverished circumstances as UN-registered refugees.
The Beeb was last night accused of exploiting the refugees, with one suffering a seizure on set and requiring hospital treatment.
Rakhine state Chief Minister Nyi Pu “insisted on completion of the finishing touches on buildings, medical clinics and sanitation infrastructures” during a visit to repatriation camps in the state on Friday, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.
It published a photo of his delegation standing by a long, wooden house that will be used to house returnees at the camp near the town of Maungtaw. A wire-mesh fence topped by barbed wire appears in the background of the photo.
Over 655,500 Muslim Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military cracked down in the northern part of Rakhine in response to militant attacks on security forces on Aug. 25. The United Nations described the operation as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies.
Rohingya refugees who escaped to Bangladesh are due to start returning to Myanmar next week.
The refugees in Bangladesh are afraid of going back as they will gain stay in camps and they may face insecure situations as none can forget the horror.
More than 650,000 are living in makeshift camps after fleeing violence and persecution over the past five months.
But the UN and rights groups are raising grave concerns about the repatriation process.
Hundreds of Rohingya refugees staged protests in Bangladesh Friday against plans to send them back to Myanmar, where a military crackdown last year sparked a mass exodus.
The refugees chanted slogans and held banners demanding citizenship and guarantees of security before they return to their home state of Rakhine in Myanmar.
The protest came ahead of a visit by UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee to the camps in southeastern Bangladesh where around a million of the Muslim minority are now living.
Bangladesh has reached an agreement with Myanmar to send back the around 750,000 refugees who have arrived since October 2016 over the next two years, a process set to begin as early as next week.
But many Rohingya living in the crowded, unsanitary camps have said they do not want to return to Rakhine after fleeing atrocities including murder, rape and arson attacks on their homes.
Rights groups and the UN say any repatriations must be voluntary.
They have also expressed concerns about conditions in Myanmar, where many Rohingya settlements have been burned to the ground by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.
One would have thought that the much-heralded plans for regional, sub-regional and inter-regional connectivity projects should have added up rather than subtracted from each other. But that is not to be! This is because the projects have been primarily envisioned as mutually rivalling rather than complementary.
Take for instance, the OBOR of China and Big “B” of Japan that Bangladesh has agreed to be a party to. But India, though a part of the Japanese initiative, does not look kindly on the former, to put it politely.
The sponsoring or leading country of such mega-projects nurtures an idea of expanding its sphere of influence through economic and trade blocs or groupings with like-minded countries joining in like a phalanx, as it were. This is, however, not to rule out the possibility for forging linkages between various infrastructures or co-option of one member country of a grouping into another bloc at a future date.
The realpolitik construct of the Cold War era between the two superpowers along with their allies gave way to détente in 1990’s after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.