Fleeing violence at home, Rohingya face crackdown in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi forces have reportedly beaten a group of Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar on arrival in Bangladesh and have destroyed some 20 boats that carried them.
Refugees and local witnesses said border guards beat and arrested the Rohingya Muslims along with crew as they landed at Shah Porir Dwip, on the southern tip of Bangladesh, in the early hours of Wednesday, and then smashed to pieces about 20 boats that ferried the persecuted Muslims into the country.
“When I arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar by boat, the Bangladesh border guards caught me and started beating me with a stick three times. Also the guards made a hole in the boat,” said Ibrahim Holil, a Rohingya Muslim refugee.
“When we arrived in Bangladesh at night, the guards came with lights and made holes in every boat with tools,” another refugee said.
Rejecting the reports of beatings, Lieutenant Colonel Ariful Islam, the local commander of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), accused the organizers of the boat journeys of human trafficking and said, “The boats are trying to carry passengers they are not supposed to.” He also claimed that a local narcotic drug was being “smuggled” on the boats. He offered no evidence for his claim of drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, Robi Alam, a local Bangladeshi fisherman, claimed that the BGB had paid local people to smash the Rohingya boats with sledgehammers and machetes.
“Last night, the Rohingya came by boat and the Border Guard of Bangladesh stopped them and they ordered Bangladeshi fishermen to destroy the boats,” he said.
More than 507,000 Rohingya Muslims, fleeing government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar, have already fled to Bangladesh in hopes of finding shelter and security. Over 10,000 more Rohingya refugees have reportedly amassed near a crossing point with Bangladesh awaiting entry.
But the reports of beating and the new measures by the Bangladeshi forces may be an ominous sign of trouble in a country the Rohingya Muslims had sought to find refuge in.
In Myanmar, soldiers and Buddhist mobs have been attacking Rohingya Muslims and torching their villages since October 2016. The attacks have seen a sharp rise since August 25, following a number of purported armed attacks on police and military posts in a western state.
The UN has described the crackdown on Rohingya in Myanmar as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.