This is how residents of Teknaf, an upazila of Cox’s Bazar district that borders Myanmar’s Rakhine state, home to Rohingya Muslims, described witnessing the plight of Rohingyas in the crackdown by the Myanmar Army.
“For the last one week, we have been watching fire gutting down hundreds of houses on the other side [of the border] and helicopters dropping mortars on Muslim-inhabited areas,” said Mohammad Hossain, a grocer in Teknaf’s Whykong union.
Lalu Miah, member of Ward 2 in Hwaikong union parishad, termed the attack horrifying. “You cannot help tearing up when you see the carnage that has been going on. It seems entire villages are in blazes.”
Several people Teknaf’s Whykong and Hnila unions, who said they witnessed the brutal attack, said the Myanmar army men were raping and killing civilians and then setting whole villages on fire.
Nazir Ahmed, 50, witnessed it closely from the Ulubania point at Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf.
“During the day, we see smoke swirling up towards the sky. At night, we hear bomb blasts and gunfire and cries. That tells you how horrible the situation is,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Besides sealing the border off to keep the fleeing Rohingyas away, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has also been working to keep the situations calm in the border areas.
“We have taken additional measures and increased patrolling in the border,” said Lt Col Abuzar Al Zahid, commander of 2 BGB Battalion stationed in Teknaf. “We have also taken steps so no one can illegally enter Bangladesh through the border. There is no reason to panic on our side.”
He further said the BGB troops are organising meeting in different areas to reassure people that they are safe. People have also been advised to avoid going to the border areas as well as the Naf River, which run alongs the border.
A reliable source near the Myanmar border told the Dhaka Tribune that Dhekibania, Kumirkhali, Shilkhali, Balibazar and Nakpura areas in particular have suffered severe damage in the attack.
“Right now, two military helicopters are regularly patrolling the areas,” he added.
Tension has been rife in Myanmar’s border areas with Bangladesh since last month when several hundred militants linked to Aqa Mul Mujahidin group launched attacks on the border police and the army, resulting in the deaths of a dozen law enforcers. The Myanmar Army has since been conducting operations to arrest the attackers.
Myanmar authorities have heavily restricted access to the area, making it difficult to independently verify government reports or accusations of army abuse, as well as provide humanitarian aid.
Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing the crackdown to Bangladesh, trying to escape the upsurge of violence that has brought the total number of dead confirmed by the army to more than 130, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The BGB pushed back 86 Rohingya people, including 40 women and 25 children and all hailing from Khoiarchar village in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, and also seized two boats after they entered Bangladesh through No 5 Sluice Gate and Wabrang area of Sabrang union crossing the Naf River.