msa April 10, 2017

By MD Ismail | March 10, 2017

Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh — “Forced relocations to hazardous ‘Thenga Chor’ Island could put our lives at risk” said a Rohingya refugee representative to the minister of the Relief and Disaster Management of Bangladesh last Saturday (Apr 8).

The Relief and Disaster Management minister, Mr. Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, visited the ‘Kutupalong’ refugee camps on Saturday morning and discussed with the refugee committee regarding the Bangladesh government’s soon-to-be implemented refugee relocation plan to the ‘Thenga Chor’ Island in the country’s ‘Noa Khali’ district.

During the meeting, Mr. Mofazzal Hossain said “Bangladesh government has taken a decision to relocate both registered and unregistered refugees to the ‘Thenga Chor’ Island in the ‘Noa Khali’ district in a very short course of time. The reason why the Bangladesh government has taken the decision is that it can’t afford to allow such a huge number of refugees live in this part of the country.”

The refugee committee members and the representatives questioned the minister about his government decision and said “we see the island to be uninhabitable and prone to natural disasters; and also the dangers posed by the local pirates and miscreants could put our lives at risk. And so, the island is not ready to live on yet.”

The minister replied “we are trying to get rid of dangers you are worried of. And we are trying to make the island habitable for you.”

The Rohingya refugees are now mostly concentrated at the southern tip of Bangladesh bordering their home country Myanmar. The refugees — registered, unregistered and the newly arrived after the October 9, 2016 Violence in Myanmar — are fearful of forced relocations to an island with hostile and unfamiliar environment. The island appeared out of water some 10-12 years back and remains submerged in the sea during monsoon.

More than the apparent socio-economic reason, there is a geopolitical reason for the Bangladesh towards Myanmar being behind this heavily criticised relocation plan as some security analysts believe. The move could significantly reduce the chances of the Rohingya resistance movements against the Myanmar military in the future.

[Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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