Bangladesh Must Keep Border Open: HRW

Rohingya refugees from Burma sit on a boat as they try to get into Bangladesh on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)

DHAKA, Bangladesh— Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday urged Bangladesh to keep its border open to people seeking refuge from sectarian violence in western Burma.

The New York-based group said in a statement that Bangladesh should also allow independent humanitarian agencies free and unfettered access to the border areas.

It expressed its concern after Bangladesh on Tuesday turned away three boats carrying 1,000 Muslims fleeing violence in neighboring Burma, bringing to 1,500 the number of refugees intercepted in recent days.

“By closing its border when violence … is out of control, Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at HRW.

“Bangladesh has an obligation under international law to keep its border open to people fleeing threats to their lives and provide them protection,” Frelick said.

It also urged other governments to provide humanitarian assistance and other support for the refugees.

Similarly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Tuesday called for Bangladesh to keep its border with Burma open and allow a safe haven on its territory for those who need immediate safety and medical assistance.

Like other UN agencies, the UNHCR has recently withdrawn its staff from northern Arakan State, but said it hoped to return soon to address humanitarian needs.

Violence in western Burma between Buddhists and minority Muslims who call themselves Rohingyas have left at least 12 people dead and hundreds of homes burned since Friday.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said on Tuesday at a news conference in the capital, Dhaka, that it was not in Bangladesh’s interest to accept any refugees because the impoverished country’s resources already are strained.

Some still slipped into Bangladesh, and one 50-year-old refugee allegedly wounded by gunfire from Burmese security forces died Tuesday at a hospital in Chittagong, a doctor said. Two other Rohingyas are being treated for bullet wounds, said Anisur Rahman, a doctor at Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

On Wednesday, the Daily Star newspaper published a photograph on its front page of two women and four children who reached Shah Pori Island in the Bay of Bengal a day earlier, reportedly after spending five days at sea.

Burma considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh says Rohingya have been living in Burma for centuries and should be recognized there as citizens.

In the 1990s, about 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh in the face of alleged persecution by the military junta.

Later, Burma took back most of them, leaving some 28,000 in two camps run by the government and the United Nations.

Bangladesh has been unsuccessfully negotiating with Burma, officially known as Myanmar, for years to send them back and, in the meantime, tens of thousands of others have entered Bangladesh illegally in recent years.

Dear Readers:The Irrawaddywelcomes your opinions and views on the issue in Arakan State, irrespective of your race, religion or bias. However, we cannot publish and will not tolerate those who use offensive language or racial insults, or those who try to spread propaganda or who incite violence.Please use this forum respectfully.

The Irrawaddy Team


8 Responses to Bangladesh Must Keep Border Open: HRW

  1. It is really funny HRW is asking Bangladesh to open up its border but won’t ask Myanmar Government to stop violence against Rohingya. Even though it really hurts when innocent people are being subjected to such senseless brutality and being turned away from Bangladesh, it is in Bangladesh’s interest to turn these people away. At the end of the day, Myanmar govt’s ultimate objective is to push the Rohingas to Bangladesh. If we accept these refugee, then Myanmar will never take them back,.

    • It is really funny to say that Myanmar gov to stop violence against Bangali so called Rohingya.
      These so called Rohingya Bangali are runing away from poverty of their native country Bangladesh which is exploding population. They may have been living in Myanmar soil for quite long due to plenty of foods. But Myanmar never consider as they are Myanmr cityzens. Just see their face and listen their language, they are bengalis. Myanmar do not look like these bengali face and do not speak bengali. It is a shame that Bangladesh cannot provide enough food for their own tribes and push them to stay in Myanmar. Pls take back your own country people. Myanmar people are humble and friendly. Because of this, bangali are taking adventages. In my native town, there are so many Bangali whom they said themselves are Rakhines. Many people share one IC card and speak broken Myanmar language.They don’t want to go back where they come from because Myanmar is a better place to stay. So Bengladesh ,pls take back your own people and provide enough foods.

  2. I hope this violence of nonsense will finish soon because its hurting the innocent people of both side.

  3. One bot is missing near the shapuri dip by rain & storm. This boat is floating since 4 days. The Bg desh government not allowing to enter. More than 40 people died for this situation. Who will be responsible for that accident? This is crime against humanity.

  4. In early 70s Bangladesh was in chaos.in 1970 a cyclone killed 500,000 peoples and then came a civil war with casualties of thousands. Millions of Bangladeshis fled into India and Burma as refugees. Many thousands Bengalis who flee into Burma never come back and stayed on inside Burmese territory. Only in 1978 when Burmese government conducted a citizen screening project they move back to Bangladesh. But then Bangladesh, a newly founded country after separation from Pakistan, refused to recognize them as its citizen. International communities did not pressure the Bengalines to accept its peoples back because they do not want to see more burdens on already heavily populated poor country. On the other hand they forced Burma’s unpopular Ne Win regime to accept these Bangladeshis. Ne Win reluctantly agreed to accept these Bengalis as immigrants in the end and had an agreement with Bangladesh. Many thousands Bengalis went back into Burma and resided in Burma’s northern Arakan State. But bogus migrants and illegal immigration into the Arakan state continued and social tension rise between Bengalis and native Arakanse peoples. During the 1988 uprising in Burma, rules of law was partially broke down in border area and that allowed more illegal immigrants from Bangladesh cross into Burma. 1992 the Burmese military regime tried to stop the flow of illegal immigrants but they handled the situation badly. The result was they had to accept more illegal Bengalis as legal migrants. As the unpopular military is reign of Burma for so long, it is easy for Rohinja campaigners to gain sympathy from international community. Of course, the suffering of them under military rules is true and no one can deny it as other parts of country feel the same oppressions. But their claims of numbers of their population inside Burma and history of their presence in Burma are exaggerated and base on unbalanced facts. The core of the current problems is Bangladesh refusal to accept its own citizen back and trying to dump them in other countries. This attitude can be clearly seen in recent blockade of refugee boats by Bangladesh authorities.

  5. This is indeed a sad situation, I hear my fellow Myanmr talking about the Rohingya in ammer used for invaders or unwanted aliens of the worst kind.
    When my own daughter asked about them and what sort of people they are, I looked up some pictures on the internet, there I saw worried families, frighten children, and in all the eyes I saw fear.
    This is wrong.
    I am a Myanmar.
    But I don’t know what to do or say about this situation.
    All I now that it is a poor chapter in our history.
    All I know is that we are not what to people what we want them to be to us.

  6. Burmese government has persistently maintained that Rohingyas are ‘guests’ and illegal immigrants. They say that their ancestors migrated to Burma after the 1824 first Anglo-Burmese war, thus they are not ‘indigenous’ and not entitled to citizenship. It is time they changed their biased and illogical thinking. More recently entered Kokants, who are of Chinese origin, have been recognized as an indigenous group. These double standards will contribute to further woes and distrusts.

  7. National races who remain faithful to the land for thousands of year could not demand the loss of their rights over 50 years. However, illegal migrants are bursting out and some foreign sources are beseeching on behalf of them for their unreasonable rights by exaggerating the recent issue. Well! I have no idea what to say more.

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