Thursday March 22, 2018 06:20 PM

Secret demo at Rohingya camp against repatriation

Secret demo at Rohingya camp against repatriation
Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar's Rakhine state since last August in 2017Reuters

Openly protesting against the process can get them arrested

A group of Rohingyas held a protest rally against repatriation, which they say will be unsafe without the involvement of global bodies, at Teknaf’s Kutupalong refugee camp on Tuesday.

The rally was held in secret, at the heart of the densely-populated camp, to avoid detection by Bangladeshi law enforcement personnel to evade arrest.

Rohingya leaders have described the repatriation program as “unsafe and disrespectful.”

Tuesday’s demonstration followed Monday’s protest rally at Balukhali 1 camp.

Some Rohingya leaders say they plan to hold similar rallies across all the camps in Bangladesh. One of the Rohingya leaders said they held the latest rally around 10am at the heart of the Kutupalong camp.

Police and the local administration supervising the camp said they had no report of any such development.

Md Abul Khayer, OC of Ukhiya police station, told the Dhaka Tribune that Rohingya people protesting against the process had been detained.

He said they had patrolled the area around Kutupalong camp in the morning but did not find anything.

“It is difficult for us to detect anything immediately because of the dense population,” he said. “We are always on the lookout for any untoward situations.”

The Rohingyas, one of the largest stateless communities in the world, are denied citizenship by Myanmar who calls them Bangalis to imply that the members of the ethnic minority are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Those raising voice against the repatriation demand to be officially recognized as Rohingyas and want a guarantee of safety once they go back.

During Tuesday’s protests, they claimed that the Myanmar army and local Moghs were still destroying Rohingya villages in the Rakhine state.

A Rohingya leader, who declined to be named, said they wanted the restoration of their rights to freedom of movement, assembly, and association.

“Put on trial everyone responsible for the atrocities in the Rakhine state and allow the international humanitarian relief works to be resumed in the affected areas,” he said. “Only then can we return.”

Another Rohingya man said that they could return home if UN peacekeepers were stationed in Rakhine to ensure their safety.

The protesters also demanded full implementation of the recommendation made by the Kofi Annan commission, and the five-point proposal put forth by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the UN.

Rohingya refugees living on the no man’s land had staged protested against the repatriation process on Saturday and Sunday.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar army launched a brutal crackdown targeting the minority since August 25, 2017. Several hundred thousands of Rohingyas, who crossed the border at various times, have been staying in Bangladesh for years.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to repatriate the Rohingyas back to Myanmar in November last year. The process was scheduled to begin late last month, but was suspended. It is unclear when it will resume.

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