Bangladesh Detains 128 Refugees Fleeing Arakan

By Associated Press 19 June 2012

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh—Bangladeshi officials on Monday intercepted an additional 128 Rohingya refugees fleeing sectarian violence in western Burma, and said they would be detained for a while and then sent back home.

Some 2,000 Muslim Rohingyas have tried to enter Bangladesh after fleeing violence in recent weeks in Burma’s troubled Arakan State between Buddhists and Rohingyas that has left dozens of people dead.

But they have all been either turned back or detained. Bangladesh says its resources already are too strained and has refused to accept the Rohingyas despite urgings from the United Nations to grant them refugee status.

The latest group—mostly women and children—arrived Monday in five boats at an island in the Bay of Bengal near the border with Burma, said Lt-Col Zahid Hasan, commander of Border Guard Bangladesh.

Authorities planned to provide them food and water, and then send them back home at an unspecified later time, he said.

Abdus Sobhan, 52, who was among the newly arrived refugees, said he and his neighbors from the Maungdaw area of Arakan state headed for Bangladesh because they feared torture by Burmese security forces in a crackdown following this month’s violence.

The security forces have been rounding up youths in his neighborhood and imposing strict stay-at-home curfews, he said.

“We could not go outside for days, they took our boys away,” he said. “How could we survive if we can’t go outside?”

The unrest—trigged by the rape and murder last month of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by three Muslims, and the June 3 lynching of 10 Muslims in apparent retaliation—stems from long-standing tensions.

Burmese state media reported over the weekend that 50 people had overall been killed in the violence.

Burma, officially known as Myanmar, 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.

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The Irrawaddy Team