The Dhaka Tribune, a newspaper owned by a politician in the Awami League (Bangladesh’s current governing party) published an article about the reaction of Rohingya refugee camp leaders to the government’s proposed forced relocation of Rohingya to the uninhabitable island of Thengar Char. Abu Siddique, head of the Kutupalong refugee camp at Cox’s Bazar, said “We would rather drown in the Naf River than move to Thengar Char.”
Since October 9th, when the military assault on Rohingya began, nearly 70,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar for Bangladesh, increasing the Rohingya refugee population to between 300,000-500,000 living in makeshift camps & already suffering severe malnutrition & poverty. Most live in unregistered camps which means the UNHCR provides no services. Most are prevented from registering by the Bangladesh government which does not want them to take up residence.
The new wave of refugees prompted the Bangladesh government to resurrect an old discredited plan & again threaten to move thousands of Rohingya to Thengar Char to wait out deportation back to Myanmar. Though the proposal is clearly deranged, government ministers insist they are going to carry out the plan, are seeking UN funding to implement it, & will build necessary infrastructures like roads & shelter to make it possible.
One official said the relocation would take place only after the infrastructure projects are completed. Reuters sent reporters to check out construction on Thengar Char & said as of a few days ago there was no sign of activity. It’s unlikely the Bangladesh government will be able to persuade construction workers to live in tents & work on a muddy island subject to flooding & cyclones, & with no cell phone reception to call home & beg to be airlifted out.
It’s more likely the Bangladesh government is pulling a fast one with this proposal–not that it shouldn’t be denounced since the level of derangement among capitalist politicians makes it a possibility. But the Thengar Char proposal might be something of a switch & bait maneuver to distract attention from the violence at the Naf river dividing Myanmar & Bangladesh. The real issue of concern is not forced relocation to that island but that Bangladesh officials have been preventing fleeing Rohingya from entering the country & are forcibly returning them to the killing fields they are fleeing. That’s what has to be exposed & denounced.
The article in Dhaka Tribune claimed Rohingya refugees are urging the Bangladesh government to pressure Myanmar to let them back. What the refugee leaders clearly said was that they would rather drown in the Naf river than be dumped like landfill on an uninhabitable island. They do not want to go back to the genocide they just fled from. They want sanctuary in Bangladesh as provided under international law to those fleeing genocide. Asylum from genocide is a right.
End the genocide in Myanmar. Full human & democratic rights for Rohingya in Myanmar & in exile.