Law and order situation involving Rohingyas is on the rise and likely to get worse if the crisis lingers
The repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, who took shelter in Cox’s Bazar to escape the brutal crackdown of Myanmar’s security forces aided by local Buddhist vigilantes and people belonging to other ethnic groups in Rakhine, is extremely important for the stability of Bangladesh, especially the coastal district, and Myanmar.
Residents of Cox’s Bazar and officials of the government and different law-enforcement agencies told Dhaka Tribune that different type of crimes involving Rohingyas have been on the rise for past several months and things are likely to get worse in coming days if the crisis lingers.
If the law and order situation gets out of control, they said that not only Cox’s Bazar but also Rakhine will be affected with regional and global implications.
So, the residents and officials said that it would be good for Myanmar as well as Bangladesh if Rohingyas were taken back as the government in Naypyidaw had pledged repeatedly.
They are hoping against all odds that the visit of a high-level delegation from Myanmar will be helpful to begin the much-awaited repatriation.
“Look, our law enforcement agencies are trying their best to bring law and order under control at the Rohingya settlements. Despite that, some incidents are taking place due to many factors such as over-congestion, topography and socioeconomic factors,” Abul Kalam, refugee relief and repatriation commissioner based in Cox’s Bazar, told Dhaka Tribune.
“The solution to the ongoing crisis lies on the other side of the border. If the Myanmar government lives up to its pledge to take its own people back, both Bangladesh and Myanmar will be better off,” he said.
“We have an agreement. We are prepared to begin the repatriation as soon as Myanmar is ready,” he added.
ABM Masud Hossain, the Cox’s Bazar superintendent of police, said: “Despite our resource constraints, we are trying our best to maintain law and order at the Rohingya camps.”
“We, the residents of Cox’s Bazar, always have a fear that one day the Rohingyas might come to settle in other parts of the district, including the town [areas],” said Ali Ashraf, who runs a business in the town.
The law and order situation has been getting worse over the last few months and if the crisis lingers, things may get out of control, said several law enforcement agency members on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the media.
And, they said that to make the matters worse, Bangladeshi criminals have now joined hands with the Rohingya criminals to conduct different illegal activities including trafficking of drugs and humans, kidnapping and exploitation.
Citing the recent “gunfights” between the law enforcement agencies and Bangladeshi and Rohingya criminals in which several people dies, the individuals said that they fear this type of incidents will rise if the crisis lingers.
“See, about 10 lakh [one million] people live in an area of only several thousand acres and the condition is appalling. And, they have suffered such trauma that we cannot even think of. This kind of people usually become aggressive,” said a police officer.
“The rainy season is very dangerous for them as they have nothing to do at all apart from staying inside the congested makeshift houses,” he said.
“How long can you keep so many people confined to a small area,” questioned another official.
“With the limited number of law enforcement agency members it is difficult to govern them properly, particularly at nights when the illegal activities take place,” he said.
“And, there are some terrains which we cannot easily access. That is another problem,” he added.
“The residents of Cox’s Bazar fear that one day the frustrated Rohingyas will try to get out of the camps to spread across the district and other ones. Their [the residents’] fear cannot be brushed aside. Already, some Rohingyas [presumed to be] in the camps are found living elsewhere in the country,” said another official, adding: “It is all but impossible to stop Rohingyas from leaving the camps.”