Bangladesh: Clashes spark Rohingya refugee fears

June 16, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Bangladesh, June 11, 2012: Border guards, police put on alert to tackle possible exodus.

Border Guards and police in Cox’s Bazar district are on high alert along the country’s southeast border for a possible influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing deadly sectarian violence in neighboring Myanmar.

Authorities in Bangladesh fear the violence will trigger an exodus of Rohingya people that will add to the hundreds of thousands still in the country after fleeing previous ethnic unrest.

Local police say they have detained four injured ethnic Rohingya Muslims after they fled Rakhine state after clashes between majority Buddhists and Muslims erupted on Friday.

One of them, Kamal Hossain, said they were shot at by Myanmar border security forces on Saturday night and made their way to Teknaf land port in Bangladesh by fishing boat yesterday.

According to Myanmar state television, a state of emergency has been declared and a curfew imposed in western Rakhine state. It said yesterday that seven people had been killed, 17 were injured and hundreds of homes burned.

Buddhists in Rakhine consider the Rohingya people as illegal immigrants or foreigners and even Myanmar authorities refuse to acknowledge them as one of the country’s ethnic groups.

Cox’s Bazar and the Chittagong Hill districts are currently home to around 200,000-300,000 Rohingya refugees, who the government would like to see return to Myanmar.

Last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held bilateral talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein during which they discussed the possible repatriation of Rohingya refugees.

However, the refugees say they will only return home if the authorities ensure their basic human rights are protected and that Buddhists allow the Rohingya to live among them in peace.

According to the UN, the Rohingya are among the world’s most persecuted minority people.

– ucan

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