COX’S BAZAR/YANGON: Bangladesh security forces have detained a Rohingya leader during a sweep in a refugee camp, police said on Tuesday, as tension grows over plans to repatriate the displaced Muslims to Myanmar.
The Rohingya representative, Mohibullah, was held in Cox’s Bazar district as local authorities broke up a protest against the controversial repatriation deal signed by Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He was handed over to Bangladesh’s elite security force and then local police who are still holding him for questioning, Cox’s Bazar police chief Abul Khair said on Tuesday.
Two other Rohingya men were also detained for their role in the protests, another officer added.
Mohibullah, who goes by one name, has mobilised Rohingya in recent weeks to protest against returning the persecuted Muslims to Myanmar.
Bangladesh had been due to start the huge process of repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Tuesday, after agreeing a two-year timescale with Myanmar.
But the process was delayed when Bangladesh said neither side was ready for the huge undertaking. Myanmar later blamed its neighbour for its lack of preparation.Bangladesh insists the repatriation process will be voluntary but Rohingya have erected banners, chanted slogans and staged angry rallies in crowded camps near the border in Cox’s Bazar.
Police are also investigating the murder of two Rohingya representatives in the past week. Local media suggested one man was targeted for his support for the repatriation process.
“We are conducting raids in the camps every day,” Cox’s Bazar deputy police chief Afrujul Haq Tutul said. Seven Rohingya men had been arrested in the police investigation into the murders, he added.
A Rohingya leader said those considered “pro-repatriation” were coming under suspicion as hostility to the plan snowballed in the refugee camps.
Myanmar blames BD for delayed Rohingya return
Myanmar blamed Bangladesh on Tuesday for delays to the start of a huge repatriation programme for Rohingya refugees, as the UN warned of the dangers of rushing their return to strife-torn Rakhine state.In signs the unrest was continuing despite the repatriation plans, Bangladesh officials said a huge fire burned and gunshots were heard in a village in Rakhine.
Myanmar agreed that from January 23 it would start taking back those refugees who had fled since 2016 and sought shelter in the squalid camps clustered in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
But a Bangladeshi official said the programme would not begin as planned. Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said there was much more preparatory work to be done.
The complex process of registering huge numbers of the dispossessed has been further cast into doubt by the refugees themselves, who are too afraid to return to the scene of what the UN has called “ethnic cleansing”.Myanmar officials said that by Tuesday afternoon no Rohingya had crossed back into Rakhine, the scene of alleged widespread atrocities by Myanmar’s army and ethnic Rakhine mobs.
“We are right now ready to receive… we are completely ready to welcome them according to the agreement,” Kyaw Tin, Minister of International Cooperation told reporters in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital.
“We have seen the news that the Bangladesh side is not ready, but we have not received any official” explanation, he added.
With hundreds of Rohingya villages torched and communal tensions still at boiling point in Rakhine, rights groups say Rohingya returnees will at best be herded into long-term camps.
Those who return must sign a form verifying they did so voluntarily and pledging to abide by Myanmar laws.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said safeguards for potential returnees were still absent, while refugees continue to leave Myanmar and access for aid agencies and the media to Rakhine is restricted.
In a statement it urged Myanmar to implement advisory commission recommendations calling for security for all communities, freedom of movement and solutions for citizenship for Muslim communities.
“Without this, the risk of dangerous and rushed returns into a situation where violence might reignite is too great to be ignored.”