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Fleeing violence at home, Rohingya risk perilous boat journeys

Rohingya refugees arive at Teknaf, Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees arive at Teknaf, Bangladesh   | Photo Credit: Haroon Habib

The 81-km long marine drive that connects Cox’s Bazar with Teknaf has now become the new landing point for the community.

“They set our homes on fire, killed the young men in the family in front of us, beat us up and asked us to leave immediately,” said Najam Ali (65), who took a two-day perilous boat journey with his family from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

“We could do nothing but flee the violence,” said Mr. Ali, referring to the security operation underway in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where the Rohingya Muslims are living.

Mr. Ali, like hundreds of others, ignored the fear of drowning and embarked on the journey through the Bay of Bengal to reach Bangladesh’s shore. The 81-km long marine drive that connects Cox’s Bazar with Teknaf has now become the new landing point for these Rohingya.

 

In Teknaf, a sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, The Hindu met hundreds of Rohingya people, including children and women, who have crossed the sea, and taken temporary shelters on the marine drive, which was built a year ago for tourists.

Recovery of bodies

Not everyone is as lucky as Mr. Ali. Last week, police recovered nearly 100 bodies from the sea. They are believed to have drowned while trying to reach Bangladesh by boat. But such threats do not deter more people from embarking on this journey.

The “counter-insurgency operation” the Myanmar Army began in Rakhine, following an attack on army posts by Rohingya insurgents in the last week of August, is still under way. Rohingya people are seen as illegal immigrants in the Budhist majority Myanmar and are denied citizenship.

As this correspondent was standing at Kerontoli of Teknaf on the bank of Naf River that connects the two countries, thick smoke was seen billowing into the skyline of Rakhine just across the waters.

Where are this boy’s parents?

“The army fired indiscriminately. I don’t know where my father and mother are,” said 10-year-old Abdus Shoban, in tears. Shoban and two other children, Syedullah and Momtajul, showed bullet marks on their bodies. All the three crossed the sea along with hundreds of others by mechanised trawlers.

Hospitals in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong are struggling to cope with refugee influx. There are at least 80 injured Rohingya admitted in hospitals, who were either shot when their villages were burned or while crossing the border. Some of them were wounded by landmine explosions.

Bangladesh authorities and the UN aid workers in Cox’s Bazar estimate more than 300,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border through different points since the latest military hostilities began in Rakhine. Thousands more are stranded on the border areas.

‘It’s genocide’

Bangladesh Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque visited refugees in Ukhia and Teknaf on Monday. “This is genocide and it needs to be tried at an international court,” he told reporters after the visit.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit the Myanmar-Bangladesh border on Tuesday to express her concern at the situation. Dhaka has also urged the international community to come up with urgent humanitarian assistance and put pressure on Myanmar to solve the crisis.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 6:25:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/fleeing-violence-at-home-rohingya-risk-perilous-boat-journeys/article19663421.ece

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