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Abdur Rahman Khan
The Myanmar authorities continue its ethnic cleansing operation defying the global condemnation and requests from international community to put an end their atrocities on the Rohibgya Muslims. The international community has termed the Rohingyas “the most persecuted minorities in the world”.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and they are classified as illegal immigrants, despite living in that country for centuries. They have been thoroughly marginalized and repeatedly being subjected to communal violence.
Myanmar security forces have intensified operations against a small group of Rohingyas who have formed an armed group to protest the atrocities perpetuated by the Myanmar military and majority Buddhist nationals, police and other sources said. This has followed three days of clashes with the militants in the worst violence involving Myanmar’s Muslim minority in five years.
KAC warns of more violence
The fighting - triggered by coordinated attacks on Friday last by the so called insurgents wielding sticks, knives and crude bombs on 30 police posts and an army base - has killed 104 people and led to the flight of large numbers of Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist civilians from the northern part of Rakhine state.
The violence marks a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since October, when a similar but much smaller series of Rohingya attacks on security posts prompted a brutal military response dogged by allegations of rights abuses.
An Islamist group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which Myanmar has declared a terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for the Friday attacks. It was also behind the violence in October.
In a video posted online on Monday, ARSA leader Ata Ullah, flanked by two gun-toting men in masks, warned Myanmar against “oppressing” Rohingya and vowed to keep fighting to protect the rights of the community.
Earlier this month, the Kofi Annan Commission’s (KAC)report urged the Myanmar government to loosen restrictions on citizenship and movement of the stateless Rohingya community in Rakhine which are written into the controversial 1982 Citizenship Act. The report criticized the restrictions as not in accordance with international conventions to which Myanmar is a signatory, while warning of the dangers of further violence in the region.
Bangladesh is in pain
Rohingyas have been fleeing Myanmar since the early 1990s and there are now about 400,000 of them sheltered in several registered and unregistered refugee camps in Cox’sbazar. Bangladesh authorities are now trying hard to stop sheltering new refugees due to further exodus.
An estimated 5,000 people have crossed into Bangladesh in the past few days, with more than 1,000 coming early on Monday, according to Rohingya refugees in camps in the border district of Cox’s Bazar.
The government recently expressed its intent to temporarily transfer them to Thengar Char, an island in Hatiya of Noakhali.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has proposed joint operations with Myanmar forces on the border along the Rakhine state to wipe out militant and extremist forces.
The foreign ministry has sent a formal proposal to the Chargé d’affaires of Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka, Aung Myint, on Monday in the wake of the latest violence in the Muslim-dominated Myanmar state. Myint met the Director General of Southeast Asia wing Manjurul Karim at his office.
Bangladesh also pointed out that the terrorist attacks and clashes occurred at a time when the Rakhine Advisory Commission, popularly known as Kofi Annan Commission, made recommendations toward a durable solution for the Rakhine state.
During Monday’s meeting, Director General Karim also urged the Myanmar authorities to ensure civilian protection in the Rakhine state to prevent influx into Bangladesh.
The foreign ministry once again assured Myanmar of continued cooperation in dealing with the security challenges.
Political reactions in Dhaka
In Bangladesh capital Dhaka, major political parties including the opposition BNP, the left –wing parties and Islamic groups and various socio cultural organizations have sharply reacted to the atrocities being committed against the Rohingyas. They issued statements, formed human chains and organized protest rallies in Dhaka and other parts of the country to condemn the killings of innocent rohingya Muslims.
They have also criticized Bangladesh government for not taking any serious initiative to protect the Rohingya Muslims through diplomatic efforts and by providing shelter to the fleeing people on humanitarian ground.
BNP Chairman Begum Khaleda Zia, now in London for medical treatment, issued a statement on Monday expressing her concern about the ongoing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“I strongly condemn the violence being unleashed on the Rohingyas in Rakhine state. Rohingya men, women and children are living along the Naf River on the other side of the Bangladesh border amid terrible uncertainty,” she said in the statement.
“This is an inhuman, painful and heartbreaking sight and I hope the Myanmar government shows prudence in ensuring security of the Rohingyas and take measures to prevent further attacks on them.”
She also faulted ‘careless’ Bangladesh government’s weak diplomatic efforts for the worsening Rohingya problems. “I am asking the administration and law enforcers to provide shelter and security to the Rohingyas who are fleeing persecution,” Khaleda Zia said.
“I ask them to ensure the security of lives and properties of Rohingya people who have been given shelter in Bangladesh and take measures to repatriate them to their country,” the former prime minister added.
UN special rapporteur in Dhaka
United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, concluding her visit at Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar last Thursday told journalists to wait for her report regarding the matter on Rohingya crisis.
‘I have personally learned and gathered experiences about the situation of Rohingya people in Bangladesh and Myanmar. So, wait for my report which will be published very shortly,’ she said after the journalists asked about the outcome of her visit at a government-run Kutupalong refugee camp at Ukhiya of Cox’s Bazar this afternoon.
At Kutupalong makeshift camp Yanghee lee had interviewed a total of 40 Rohingyas including 20 abused and raped women and 20 males who were from four villages of Northern Maungdaw of Arakan.
Earlier on Wednesday, she visited government-run Nayapara camp and Leda makeshift camp in Teknaf and Balukhali makeshift camp at Ukhiya on Tuesday.
The UN responses
The United Nations has urged the Myanmar authorities to address the root causes of the violence in its Rakhine State and appealed all to help Bangladesh cope with the refugee influx.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday expressed concern that more than 8,700 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh since the recent attacks, adding to the tens of thousands who have been arriving in Bangladesh since October 2016. This latest round of violence comes after the attacks on Myanmar security forces on August 25.
He appealed to the international community to help Bangladesh cope with the refugee influx. “I call on the government of Myanmar to follow the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, headed by Kofi Annan, for an integrated and calibrated response to the situation in Rakhine State, to address rather than sacrifice human rights concerns in the interest of maintaining peace and order,” he said.
The UNHCR mentioned that Bangladesh has hosted refugees from Myanmar for decades saying as of Sunday last it was estimated that some 5,200 people have entered Bangladesh from Myanmar since Thursday.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged the Bangladesh authorities to continue to allow the Rohingyas fleeing violence to seek safety in Bangladesh. He made the appeal recognizing that Bangladesh has hosted generously refugees from Myanmar for decades.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned at the reports of civilians being killed during security operations in Myanmar’s Rakhine State,” Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric quoted the UN boss as saying. “The United Nations stands ready to provide all the necessary support to both Myanmar and Bangladesh in that regard,” he said.
The Secretary-General fully supports the recommendations of the report by Kofi Annan and urges the government to effectively implement them, he said. The Secretary-General, who condemned those attacks, reiterated the importance of addressing the root causes of the violence and the responsibility of the government of Myanmar to provide security and assistance to those in need.