Attitude reflects Myanmar’s unwillingness to take its people back, say officials
Several thousand Rohingyas have been languishing inside Myanmar since the latest influx that started in August, 2017, but they are not allowed back home by their own border police.
During a recent visit to the Gundhum-Tambru border area between Bangladesh and Myanmar, Dhaka Tribune saw the Rohingyas living in weak makeshift homes in an area near the Bangladesh-Myanmar international border.
To make matters worse, the allegation is that Myanmar border police had threatened them asking them to cross into Bangladesh like hundreds of thousands more.
Officials of the government, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and international organisations told this correspondent that this very attitude of the Myanmar side reflects nothing but its unwillingness to take the Rohingyas back.
Though now exact figure is available, they estimate about 5,000 Rohingyas are living there.
The Rohingyas are actually on the no man’s land along Bangladesh’s Konarpara (Naikhongchhari, Bandarban) and Myanmar’s Tambru border points.
At this point of the border, 50 yards are considered as no man’s land and the Myanmar authorities erected fences along the border in a way so that the Rohingyas remain on no man’s land.
Although these Rohingyas geographically live in Myanmar, they are looked after from Bangladesh. Bangladesh and Myanmar are divided by a Tambru canal only to be connected by a dilapidated bridge over it.
They are provided with relief materials through Majhis, the community leaders. International Committee of the Red Cross is responsible to provide food and other lifesaving stuff.
“Myanmar talks about repatriation. Doesn’t it sound funny? These Rohingyas are already in Myanmar and in order to take them back there is no need for signing any instrument or put any mechanism in place. All they have to do is just to allow them to return to their homes,” said a senior official of the Cox’s Bazar district administration.
“The very attitude of Myanmar reflects one thing. And, that is that they will not take Rohingyas back willingly,” said another official.
“We have reports that upto now Myanmar border police threaten the Rohingyas from the other side of the fence and keep telling them to enter Bangladesh,” said an official of an international organisation.
“We don’t know the exact number of Rohingyas living along the zero line. But, the figure is estimated to be around 5,000,” said Col Monzurul Hassan Khan, BGB Commanding Officer of the Ramu sector.
“These Rohingyas are provided with food and other necessary stuff from the Bangladesh side. Whenever we meet our Myanmar counterpart, we tell them that they are inside Myanmar and to take them back,” said Col Khan.
“In response, they say they will look into it. But, so far nothing is done,” he said.
“There is no change as regards to the stranded Rohingyas in no man’s land belonging to Myanmar,” said BGB battalion-34 Commander Lt Col Ali Haider Azad Ahmed, who is in charge of the particular area.
“We are doing all we can to help these people on humanitarian grounds,” he said.