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‘No respite’: Myanmar troops force Rohingyas into Bangladesh

  • Published at 03:14 am August 29th, 2017
  • Last updated at 09:36 pm August 29th, 2017
‘No respite’: Myanmar troops force Rohingyas into Bangladesh
I was at a strategic point from where the Bangladesh-Myanmar border fence and a border post of Myanmar Border Guard Forces (BGF) on the other side was visible. What I observed from this vantage point came as a complete surprise. Around 11am, while I was talking to the newly arrived Rohingyas at a temporary shelter at the international border, they were suddenly instructed to voluntarily dismantle their shelters and move near the border fence. They were not forced to go into Myanmar territory from where they fled but they were told to take shelter near the border fence as the situation seemed to have calmed down, said a Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) official. As instructed, the Rohingyas moved to a position beside the fence. But there was to be no respite for them. At around 1pm, two bursts of gunfire were heard and smoke began to curl up from the horizon. Locals and Rohingya refugees told me it was the village Debuinna in Maungdaw township that was burning. Within 10 minutes, a group of at least 100 Rohingyas appeared on the other side of the fence, running down the hillside. From the other side of the hill where the BGF border post was situated, several Myanmar border guards came down at the same time. Their border post was on the hill numbered 12-15. [caption id="attachment_212305" align="aligncenter" width="900"]2017-08-28T130514Z_1658823885_RC1B8C6B2190_RTRMADP_3_MYANMAR-ROHINGYA-BANGLADESH Rohingya people sits on the Bangladesh side as they are restricted by the members of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), to go further inside Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh August 28, 2017 REUTERS[/caption] But to my surprise, they did not advance towards the fleeing Rohingyas. Instead, they moved to the fence, cut a human-sized hole in the wire fence and withdrew to their post once again. In the next two hours, Rohingyas who were fleeing Myanmar exited the country through those holes. BGF members stood not far from the fence, eyeing the fleeing Rohingyas. But they did not react or open fire, only standing there until the Rohingyas were well inside Bangladesh territory. I found out that along this area, there were four to five holes like this in the border fence. The Rohingyas who had been moved closer to the fence in the morning again moved back near Bangladeshi territory. Throughout the day I heard several other gunshots and explosions, believed to be 4-5km from the border fence. A helicopter was seen flying in the sky and landed next to the BGF border post. I saw the Rohingyas who had taken shelter near the border staring back at their country, where for decades their own government has branded them illegal Bangladeshis and taken away their basic rights.
Also Read: ‘They torched our houses and shot at us as we fled’
Asked about the current situation at the border, BGB 34 Battalion Commanding Official Monzurul Hasan Khan told me: “We do not know what is happening on the other side, but the Rohingyas are now taking shelter at the zero line. We hope that they will go back to their country.” Asked whether he was expecting more Rohingyas to come into Bangladesh, he replied: “Maybe, maybe not. We have to wait. It depends on the situation.” I asked International Organisation for Migration Cox’s Bazar chief Sanjukta Sahany about estimates of newly arrived Rohingyas and plans to provide humanitarian assistance to them. She replied that it was too early to comment as the situation had begun only three days ago. “We are carrying out our regular activities. We have not started anything yet. We thought to observe the situation as we experienced this the last time as well. After observing for two or three days we will plan something for these people,” she said. UNHCR Bangladesh Spokesperson Joseph Tripura said that by their estimate, up to August 27 at least 3,000 Rohingyas had entered the camps in Bangladesh.
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