Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Letter - On Rohingyas by the Asian Centre For Human Rights (ACHR)

[Comments could be mailed to -  secretariat@achrweb.org ; Web site: www.achrweb.org]

 20th February  2017

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, isundertaking a visit to various locations of the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh from today, i.e. 20th February to 23 Febuary 2017 to examine human rights violations on the Rohingyas.

In its submission to the Special Rapporteur titled"Rohingya refugees of Myanmar: Bangladesh is facilitating ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas in Arakan and indigenous Jumma peoples in the CHTs by using the fleeing Rohingyas" (http://www.achrweb.org/briefingpapers/RohingyaRefugees-BP-01-17.html), Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that while gross human rights violations against the Rohingyas must be investigated but the UN human rights mechanisms cannot be oblivious to the Buddhists of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) being made into a minority in their own land by the permanent settlement of the Rohingya refugees by the Government of Bangladesh as part of its racist policy againts indigenous peoples of the CHTs. The Rohingyas  who belong to the same stock of people as the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh have already become majority in Bandarban district of the CHTs and have been involved in grabbing the lands of indigenous Buddhists and attacks on Buddhists monks and Buddhist temples in the CHTs.

Most in the international community has taken "Symptomatic Approach" to the Rohingya refugee crisis, viewed the Rohingya refugee issue only from "Rohingya/Arakan tunnel" and have failed to conduct local impact assessment on the settlement of the Rohingya refugees on the local/indigenous communities of the CHTs. The UNHCR which has access to Nayapara and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar district and is required to conduct local impact assessment essentially remained a mute witness since 1992. 

1. Current influx and ACHR's findings from the field visit to Rohingya refugees at Ukhia in January 2017

The current influx of the Rohingya refugees started following the attacks on the Border Guard Police of Myanmar in Rakhine State on 9th October 2016 by the Rohingya insurgents in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reporting about “mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State”. By the end of January 2017, the United Nations was quoted of reporting influx of 65,000 new Rohingya refugees since October 2016.

From 13-15 January 2017,  researchers of of ACHR visited Rohingya refugees who had taken shelter under Ukhia Subdivision under Cox’s Bazaar. ACHR researchers found that the Rohingyas refugees are living in self-made make shift camps and have no intention to return to Myanmar in the light of the gross human rights violations and absolute lack of guarantees against non-repetition of human rights violations by the Myanmar's security forces. At the same time, the Government of Bangladesh is neither registering them nor issuing identity cards to record their origin which is indispensable for repatriation to Myanmar. There is no intention on the part of the Government of Bangladesh to repatriate the Rohingya refugees while Myanmar shamefully agreed to take back less 2,500 Rohingya refugees.

This calls of local impact assessment since influx of the Rohingya refugees from 1992.

2. From refugees to rulers: The case of the Rohingya refugees becoming effective rulers over the Bangladeshi Rakhines i.e. Marmas in Bandarban district of the CHTs 

The latest influx takes the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to about 6,00,000 i.e. upto 500,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees living outside the official camps as per UNCHR in 2014, 32,000 refugees living in the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar district as per UNHCR in 2014 and 65,000 refugees who arrived since October 2016.

Majority of these refugees settled in the CHTs. This is confirmed by the fact the national survey of the Rohingya refugees conducted by the Government of Bangladesh from 2 to 14 June 2016 focused all the three districts of the CHTs out of the six districts i.e. Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Chittagong and Patuakhali. Out of these districts, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari are part of the CHTs Regional Council while two remaining districts i.e. Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong are bordering districts of the CHTs region. The Government of Bangladesh has refused to disclose the number of Rohingya refugees in these districts as none outside the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps claimed as Rohingyas.

The influx of the Rohingya refugees started in 1992 and as per the census of Bangladesh, the population of Bandarban district increased from 157,301 persons as per 1991 census to 298,120 persons as per 2001 census i.e. an increase of 90% against decadal growth rate of 17% in entire Bangladesh during the same period. In a submission under the Universal Period Review of the UN Human Rights Council, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact claimed that over 15,000 families of the Rohingya refugees (i.e. about 105,000 persons) had been settled in Nakkhyangchari, Ruma, Lama, Alikadam and Sadar area of Bandarban district with direct support from the authorities of the Government of Bangladesh. The Marma people whose population is less than 100,000 have already been reduced to minorities.

Paritosh Chakma

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