Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bangladeshi police attack Rohingya camp

(DVB)–Hundreds of makeshift homes belonging to Rohingya refugees in a camp near to the Bangladesh-Burma border were destroyed by “aggressive and abusive” Bangladeshi police, according to a medical aid group.

The incident was witnessed by staff working for Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF), which provides medical aid to the estimated 300,000 Rohingya of Burmese descent who have sought refuge on the Bangladesh side of the border.

According to MSF, around 30 Bangladeshi police and officials arrived at the Kutupalong camp near to Cox’s Bazaar on 14 July and destroyed 259 homes.

“Other residents of the makeshift camp were told that they have 48 hours to clear their homes or they will be burnt down,” the statement said.

The Kutupalong camp is adjacent to a camp run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Officials taking part in the incident reportedly claimed it was being done to create a buffer zone between the two camps.

“The systematic use of intimidation, violence and forcible displacement against residents of the makeshift camp is absolutely unacceptable,” said MSF’s head of mission in Bangladesh, Paul Critchley.

“This vulnerable population has fled persecution and discrimination in Myanmar [Burma], only to be left unrecognized and unassisted in Bangladesh.”

In June, Thailand and Bangladesh pledged to help aid the repatriation of Rohingya back to Burma, where they have long suffered persecution at the hands of a government who don’t officially recognize them.

Their plight hit the headlines in January this year when around 1000 Rohingya refugees landed ashore in Thailand, only to towed back out to sea by Thai authorities. Around 550 were thought to have died.

The Burmese government has been reluctant to grant repatriation to Rohingya who had fled the country’s western Arakan state, claiming they would have to prove they came from Burma in the first place.

This would be almost impossible, however, given that Rohingya in Burma are denied legal status.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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