Rohingya Minority Suffers As Bangladesh Bans Further Entry Of Refugees

An official for Bangladesh announced on Saturday that the country would no longer allow Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to flee into its borders. The official claims that Bangladesh has suffered “massive” social, environmental, and economic repercussions as a result of the roughly 400,000 Rohingya people, who have already entered. In a statement released by Bangladesh’s Foreign Office, the country “stressed on the need for respecting the state responsibility to protect its civilian population and urges Myanmar to ensure appropriate protection and shelter for the unarmed civilians especially the vulnerable segments of the population such as women, children and elderly people.”

This move comes at a time of great distress in Myanmar. Rohingyas, the Muslim Indo-Aryan people from the Rakhine State in Myanmar, have been living in a state of conflict, as the government has refused to acknowledge them as a legitimate native ethnic minority. They have been discriminated against by the military, and they have been the target of several deadly attacks. The most recent occurred just last week in Rathedaung Township, where government troops were gathered. 71 people were killed, including 12 individuals in the security forces, making this the bloodiest attack to occur in recent months.

Although Myanmar is composed of a predominantly Buddhist population, there are about 1 million Muslim Rohingyas residing in the northern part of the Rakhine State. This minority group has faced years of prosecution, and the Buddhist-majority of Myanmar perceives individuals in this group as illegal immigrants. In response, a Rohingya insurgent group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) formed in defence of the Rohingya population against the brutality of government forces. ARSA militants have been clashing with Myanmar’s military, and the attacks have lead to unprecedented bloodshed.

According to the commander in chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, “The military and police members are fighting back together against extremist Bengali terrorists.” Regarding this same attack, the office of Myanmar’s state councillor, Aung San Suu Kyi, stated, “People are hiding, especially old people and women.” These people have been attempting to escape the violence by crossing the Naf river. Once across the river, they intended to find safety within the borders of Bangladesh. The state of unrest has grown in Myanmar, and the tension is palpable within the nation’s villages. Hla Tun, a resident of a nearby village, said, “The military tried to enter our village at 3:30 PM and were shooting us with guns.” Another villager in Maungdaw Township, Tin Maung, said that he heard several gunshots that began as early as 2 AM that day. Based on these two testimonies, alone, it is evident that these fights between the government and militants impact the daily lives of villagers in Myanmar.

The state councillor of Myanmar has accused ARSA of  “torching police outposts and monasteries, killing innocent people and planting mines.” ARSA, on the other hand, has criticized Myanmar’s military by claiming that it uses civilians as “human shields.” Human rights groups have come to the defence of the Rohingya minority, claiming that the government has been carrying out deplorable human rights violations against this group. Pope Francis is the most recent leader to call for peace in Myanmar, urging the government to end persecutions of the Rohingya minority and to grant these individuals full rights as citizens. Despite these pleas, the Rohingya people still face a great deal of instability in light of recent violence. Unfortunately, without the ability to flee to Bangladesh, these refugees are placed in an even more difficult predicament.

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