Bangladesh Jails 2 Rohingya for Protesting Repatriation

Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Tushar Tohin
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
180124_BD_Rohingya_620.jpeg Refugees walk through Balukhali refugee camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh, Jan. 24, 2018.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury/BenarNews

Two Rohingya men have been jailed for seven days in Bangladesh for protesting government plans to repatriate thousands of their people to Myanmar, police said Wednesday.

Banners that appeared at refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh listing conditions that Rohingya want to see in place before they agree to go home have also been removed.

“We have removed the banners because the Rohingya are not Bangladesh citizens. So, they do not have any right to demonstrate according to the law of the land,” Abul Khair, officer-in-charge of the Ukhia police station, told BenarNews.

He said a mobile court on Wednesday had jailed Balukhali refugee camp residents Abdur Rashid, 27, and Abdul Jabbar, 30, for one week for “spreading anti-repatriation rumors.” Another Rohingya man detained on similar charges was found innocent and released.

“They have been circulating among the common Rohingya that they should not return. They propagate that they would be killed or jailed if they returned,” Major Ruhul Amin, commander of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Cox’s Bazar district, told BenarNews.

On Friday and Monday, about 500 Rohingya refugees staged unprecedented at the Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in the district to air concerns about their safety and other questions tied to repatriation plans.

No more protests planned

According to a bilateral deal inked in November 2017, Bangladesh was to send the first batch of refugees back to Myanmar this week, but officials admitted Monday that they were not ready and could not predict when the process would start.

International rights groups and the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) warned, meanwhile, that it was premature to begin repatriating some 688,000 refugees who fled Rakhine state in Myanmar since late August, amid a violent military crackdown against the persecuted Muslim minority.

“As of today, the necessary safeguards for potential returnees are absent, and there are continued restrictions on access for aid agencies, the media and other independent observers. At the same time, refugees from Rakhine State continue to arrive in Bangladesh,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in a statement issued in Geneva on Tuesday.

No more repatriation protests were planned, residents of Balukhali camp who had participated in demonstrations there told BenarNews on Wednesday.

“Between Friday and Monday, we protested thrice at this site,” refugee Mohammad Zohar said.

Nurul Amin, 25, who was a teacher in Rakhine state before fleeing to Bangladesh, said he had written the demands in English on the protest banners that have since been removed.

“We, the Rohingya youths, talked to our seniors and staged the demonstration not to go back,” he told BenarNews. “If they grant us citizenship, we will go. We have no plan to stage further protests,” he said.

3 murders in 10 days

Elsewhere, the elite police unit RAB announced that its officers had arrested two Rohingya men who allegedly confessed to killing camp leader Mohammad Yousuf , 50, on Jan. 19 because he favored prompt repatriation.

“They warned Yousuf not to talk in favor of repatriation. Yousuf ignored the warning; so they killed him,” RAB commander Amin told BenarNews.

He said Rohingya refugees had been locked in internecine conflicts “over their interests at the camps.”

The killing was one of three that took place in Rohingya camps between Jan. 13 and 22.

“Many of our brothers have been fighting each other as a sequel to previous emnity in Arakan [Rakhine]. The people who were powerful in Rakhine are not powerful at camps. But their rivals are powerful at camps. So, they are fighting to take revenge,” Shahidul Islam, 55, a refugee living at Balukhali camp, told BenarNews.

In response to the violence, police have deployed 100 more officers in the area.

“From today, we have deployed 90 more police personnel under nine officers at three points around refugee camps in Ukhia. One officer-in-charge will supervise them,” additional police superintendent Afrozul Haque Tutul told BenarNews.

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel present Rohingya suspects Nur Mohammad, 30, and Ataur Rahman, 16, who allegedly confessed to killing a Rohingya camp leader because he supported refugee repatriation to Myanmar.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel present Rohingya suspects Nur Mohammad, 30, and Ataur Rahman, 16, who allegedly confessed to killing a Rohingya camp leader because he supported refugee repatriation to Myanmar.
Photo courtesy of RAB


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