Aftar Alam, who recently went back to Myanmar with his family from Bangladesh, had been staying at the residence of a local public representative at Tambru village under Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari upazila.
After speaking with the locals and the Rohingyas staying at the no man’s land, the Dhaka Tribune learned that Aftar had rented a house of Tambru Union Parishad Member Fatema Begum, after entering Bangladesh. The family did not stay at the camps or the no man’s land after entering Bangladesh.
According to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Aftar was staying at the no man’s land in Tambru, which does not fall under Bangladesh’s jurisdiction, before going to Myanmar. However, BGB officials did not make any comment regarding the return of Aftar to Myanmar.
On April 14, Myanmar’s Information Portal (MOI) on its official Facebook page claimed that a Muslim (Rohingya) family of five had returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh.
The post said the family was received at “Taungpyo Latwei” Entry (Receiving) Point and National Verification Cards (NVCs) were issued to them. The Facebook post also included 17 pictures.
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The Rohingyas living in Tambru’s no man’s land claimed that Aftar, his wife Sajeda Begum, daughter Tahera, son Tarek Aziz and domestic help Shawkat Ara left Bangladesh on Saturday.
UP member Fatema Begum told the Dhaka Tribune: “I gave shelter to Aftar and his family on humanitarian grounds. He stayed here for about four months.
“Recently, his movements had become suspicious, so I asked him to leave the house.”
“Later, I heard that he took shelter in the no man’s land,” she said expressing her regret for giving shelter to the family.
The reported “repatriation” of Aftar and his family come a few days after Myanmar's Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye visited a Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar.
During the visit, Win announced that Myanmar was ready for the repatriation of Rohingyas who had entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence in Myanmar.
‘Aftar worked for Myanmar govt’
Several Rohingya leaders, who have been living in no man’s land in Tambru and its surrounding areas, told the Dhaka Tribune that Aftar Alam, who recently went back to Myanmar with his family from Bangladesh, had worked for Myanmar government as an informant.
Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya leader who is living at Tambru’s no man’s land along with 5,000 other Rohingyas, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The Myanmar government had directed Aftar and his family to come to Bangladesh.”
“Here [Bangladesh], they stayed in a house which is located near the no man’s land between Myanmar and Bangladesh border. His stay in Bangladesh was hidden until his so-called repatriation to Myanmar.”
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“He worked as a spy for the Myanmar government and tried to persuade thousands of Rohingya refugees to go back to Rakhine saying that the situation had gained normalcy,” Dil Mohammad said.
Another Rohingya leader, Mohammad Arif said: “When he failed to persuade the Rohingyas, he went back and then the Myanmar authorities portrayed it as the return of refugees from Bangladesh.
“This is a deception.”
Aftar Alam was the administrator of Taungpyo Latya village where he resided with his family.
“Almost all the Rohingya villages were burnt down in Taungpyo Latya but Aftar’s house was not because he is a government informant and sycophant,” wishing anonymity, a Rohingya refugee staying at the no man’s land told the Dhaka Tribune.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017. They joined about 400,000 others who were already living in squalid, cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Many Rohingyas have expressed fear of returning to a country where they saw their relatives being murdered by soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes.
Myanmar authorities have since bulldozed many of the burned villages, raising alarm from rights groups who say Myanmar is erasing evidence of atrocities and obscuring the Rohingya’s ties to the country.
The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told the Dhaka Tribune: “The family had been living in a camp at no man’s land between the two countries. They were not under our jurisdiction.
“They went back from the no man’s land, so this cannot be called repatriation.”
Germany-based Rohingya rights activist Nay San Lwin told the Dhaka Tribune: “Myanmar’s government did not mention in their report that the Rohingya man is currently the administrator of Taungpyo Letya village. He and his family did not flee to Bangladesh.”
Nay San Lwin said: “The Myanmar government’s informant Aftar went back after failing in his mission of persuading other Rohingyas to go back. He returned to his homeland where he was convinced to pose at the event of the so-called first repatriation of the Rohingyas.
“It is a fake repatriation. Rohingyas in Bangladesh will go back if their homeland is safe for them. We are demanding protected return of the Rohingyas,” the activist, also a contributor to the Rohingya community’s blog page Rohingya Blogger, said.
Quoting sources in Myanmar and Bangladesh, the blogger said: “We were shocked to hear that anybody would return amidst the volatile conditions here [Myanmar].
“Many people are still fleeing.”
‘It is a staged repartition’
The United Kingdom-based Burmese Rohingya Organization’s President Tun Khin said: “The Myanmar government has staged a fake event about the repatriation ahead of the visit of the UN Security Council members to northern Rakhine state.”
Officials from the United Nations Security Council are set to visit the northern Rakhine state later this month. This is the first visit of United Nations Security Council members to the state since the violence against the Rohingya began in 2012.
The Myanmar security forces in the recent times have repeatedly threatened and attempted to lure the Rohingyas to return to Myanmar and live in the (concentration) camps built for them in the country.
On November 23, 2017 Dhaka and Naypyidaw signed an agreement to begin repatriating the refugees from January this year, but this process stalled over technical and ground-level complexities.