The Bangladesh government is distributing aid to Rohingya refugees trapped in a no-man’s land along the country’s border with Myanmar, ignoring calls from Naypyidaw to cut off humanitarian supplies as a precondition for those people to repatriate, officials told BenarNews.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H.M. Ali led a 16-member delegation on a visit to Myanmar earlier this month, during which Myanmar proposed calling on humanitarian organizations to carry out the task of distributing aid.
“In fact, Bangladesh didn’t respond to Myanmar’s undue demand for the sake of humanity,” an official at the Bangladeshi Disaster Management and Relief Ministry said on condition of anonymity.
In addition, Bangladesh’s government has not made an official decision on aid for the Rohingya, Md. Abul Kalam Azad, the commissioner for refugee relief and repatriation, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
“That is why Rohingya staying at no-man’s land are still getting relief,” he said.
Data from the U.N. refugee agency (UNCHR ) shows that 1,300 Rohingya families are living in the section along the Tambru border crossing.
Some of the Rohingya said they had enough food, but lacked pure drinking water and enough toilets. They have only one well and three toilets for 1,000 families, and none of the toilets are fit for women, refugees said.
They said their biggest issue had nothing to do with aid.
“Our main problem is we can’t go back to our home. We want justice from the world leaders,” Rohingya leader Dil Mohammad told BenarNews. The home he fled is only about six kilometers (four miles) from the border.
Fellow refugee Hafej Omar Sultan said that he and the other Rohingya were living uncomfortably in the no-man’s land.
“We used to live in our homes with dignity. We had work, business and we had been living peacefully. But, the conditions here are not favorable,” he said.
Mohammad Faruq, who lived in Maungdaw in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, settled in the no-man’s land with 20 family members.
“Though Myanmar asked Bangladesh government to stop food aid, Bangladesh didn’t listen to that,” he said. “They are saving the tortured population by distributing relief.
“Myanmar is not willing to take us back. Rather, they proposed such conditions to bring more suffering in our lives.”
Previously, Myanmar had agreed unconditionally to take back the Rohingya stuck in the no-man’s land.
“It’s really challenging to negotiate with a country like Myanmar. It seems Myanmar is consistently not cooperating with Bangladesh,” Delwar Hossain , the director of the East Asia Center and Center for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka, told BenarNews.
Border Guard Police
Dil Mohammad, the refugee, said Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) were taking actions to drive the Rohingya from their settlement, including firing weapons and calling out on loudspeakers.
“They insist we leave the place every day,” he said.
“They say taking shelter at the zero line is illegal and you must abide by the law,” Mohammad said. “But, they never suggest any substitute shelter for us.”
A BenarNews reporter who went near no man’s land on Sunday saw a new guard post by a barbed wire fence. A BGP member pointed a rifle at the Rohingya and another monitored the area through binoculars. Since then, the area has been off declared limits to reporters.
A Myanmar government spokesman previously justified actions by BGP members, claiming they had information that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents had taken position there.
ARSA is blamed for a series of attacks on border guard and army posts in Rakhine in late August 2017. The raids provoked a brutal crackdown by Myanmar security forces that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.