Around 203 Myanmar nationals have entered Bangladesh through Bandarban in the last few days
The Rakhine insurgent group in Myanmar known as Arakan Army, brought Buddhist refugees into Bangladesh through Chaikkhong border in the Remakri Pangsha union of Ruma upazila in Bandarban, multiple sources have confirmed.
On Saturday the Arakan Army brought 163 Buddhist refugees from the Chin State in Myanmar into Bangladesh. Later on Wednesday, the group transported 40 more people. Altogether around 203 Myanmar nationals have entered Bangladesh in the last few days.
Sources said Arakan Army brought the Myanmar nationals into Bangladesh primarily because they are in danger due to the conflict between Myanmar's military and the Arakan Army.
The Myanmar nationals who belong to Buddhist ethnic groups Khumi, Khyan and Bawm and Rakhine, had to walk at least three days through thick forests along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to reach the Chaikkhong border area.
Van Long Bom, member of ward 3 in Ruma upazila’s Remakri Pangsha union said: “The Arakan Army brought them [the refugees] in Ruma. However, we are yet to find out why.”
Sources said locals have provided the Myanmar nationals with temporary shelter in tents and some food; but the area is remote, the villagers are poor, they can only so much. The refugees are living on one meal a day— which consists of rice, potatoes and various saplings. They are sharing a meal of one between four or five people, barely scraping by.
Sangking Bom, member of ward 4 in Ruma upazila’s Remakri Pangsha union told the Dhaka Tribune: “The Arakan Army brought the Buddhist refugees to Ruma’s Chaikkhong area, and then they left. The locals are doing their best to supply food. ”
Refugees at risk
He said the refugees are at risk due to adverse weather conditions.
“Last Thursday, a pregnant Rakhine woman’s water broke. Health workers took care of her and assisted her in giving birth. There are two more pregnant women among them who are quite close to their due date.”
Dr Asui Pru, a civil surgeon in Bandarban said: “Local health care workers have been instructed to stay vigilant.”
Sources from the Ruma upzila administration (government) said members of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and the Bangladesh Army reached the area that the refugees are occupying on Thursday. It is not certain by the time this report was filed if the Myanmar nationals were granted any aid.
UNO of Ruma upazila Shamsul Alam told the Dhaka Tribune: “Members of BGB and the army were sent to the area. Once they return, we will adopt measures according to government instruction.”
Md Daudul Islam, deputy commissioner of Bandarban district however said he is unaware of any such information.
“I have no such information on Arakan Army bringing people of Buddhist community from Myanmar to Bangladeshi side as of yet,” he said at 6:30pm on Friday.
The Dhaka Tribune reached out to BGB Additional Director General Khandaker Farid Hasan seeking comment regarding the matter, but he was unavailable.
On Myanmar’s Independence Day on January 4, Arakan Army launched attacks on four police posts. The attack claimed the lives of 13 members of the Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP). They also locked up several BGP members and civilians in Myanmar.
The Arakan Army is a Rakhine insurgent group in Myanmar, founded on April 10, 2009. They operate out of Kachin State of Myanmar. The group is said to have over 4,000 members.
Insurgent groups from Myanmar are often accused of looting the houses of indigenous people in Bangladesh, and fueling the drug trade in the border area. Members of the Arakan Army had often entered the locality of Thanchi on horses to replenish their food and material.
On August 26, 2015, members of BGB confiscated ten horses that were being used by the Arakan Army to transport supplies. This incited the insurgent group and they attacked BGB members who were patrolling the Boro Modok, Bolipara and Batangpara area.
The Arakan Army opened fire on the BGB, the BGB fired back in response. BGB member Nayek Jakir Hossain was injured in the clash.
Later, additional BGB and army members were sent to the scene to placate the situation.