A Rohingya Muslim refugee in Bangladesh
By IOL South Asia Correspondent
New Delhi, November 29 (IslamOnline) — Nearly 5,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have crossed over into Bangladesh this week from neighboring Myanmar (Burma).
At one point the number of Rohingya Muslim refugees in the country rose to around 250,000.
“Rohingya” are the Muslims of the Arakan (renamed as “Rakhine”) province of Burma.
This is the third major influx since 1978.
Muslims have been fleeing Myanmar to escape persecution by the brutal regime of military junta which is extremely harsh on democratic rights activists, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable sections of society.
Rohingya Muslims, a minority in Myanmar, have been persecuted by the military junta over the years, Amnesty International said in a 1992 report after interviewing 100 Burmese Muslim refugees in Bangladesh.
The refugees told Amnesty that they had fled persecution, leaving their homes in Maungdaw and Bathidaung township areas of the Rakhine province.
Troops entered the area, occupied and closed mosques, seized livestock and crops, captured villagers for forced labor and evicted them from their homes.
Many of them have since returned. The latest lot of refugees have been living in camps outside a government building in Teknaaf town in the south-eastern district of Cox’ s Bazar.
A senior government official was reported by BBC from Teknaaf as saying that district officials had been informed about the fresh wave of refugees, and they were waiting for a decision.
The government could either decide to settle them somewhere or ask Myanmar to take them back.
Despite an agreement to take back the refugees, Myanmar had been reluctant to act, Bangladeshi officials were reported to have said.
Bangladesh dailies said many of the new refugees had settled in slums and unauthorized compounds in Bandarban district.
The leading daily Observer claimed that many Rohingyas had also settled in forests and were involved in indiscriminate logging and other criminal activities.
Another daily Bhorer Kagoj said the “soft attitude” of the administration had led to the fresh influx of refugees.
The first major wave came in 1978 during the regime of President Ziaur Rahman (the present president Khaledia Zia’ s husband).
The second came in 1991 during the first government of Khaleda Zia.
Many refugees have married Bangladeshis and acquired Bangladeshi passports.
With the fresh influx, their numbers have grown to 150,0001 according to Bangladesh’s Refugee Rehabilitation Commission.
Most refugees came from Kawor, Akiyab, Mondu, Buchitang, Rachitang and Anedangku areas of Arakan, the commission said.
Economic difficulties within Bangladesh itself has led several hundred thousand Bangalis to leave their country and migrate to big cities in India in search of livelihood, sometimes triggering political controversies in the process.
The Rohingya influx has created animosity in certain sections of Bangladeshi society against these people.
Resentment against refugees and settlers among locals is a well-known phenomenon, but the anti-Rohingya sentiment has grown in Bangladesh of late.