Law enforcement officials patrol the camps during the day, terror groups on the prowl after dark
Ordinary Rohingyas in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar have been living in misery under the tyranny of criminal elements from their own community.
The threat posed by Rohingya terror groups emerged in the limelight following the murder of the prominent Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah on Wednesday.
Sources in the police and the Rohingya community have said about a dozen armed terror groups become active in the camps after dark, as law enforcement officials only are on patrol during the day.
The groups often clash with one another to establish dominance and take control of both legal and illegal businesses.
“There are some extremist groups, like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), which carry out a number of offences in the camps.
"Such terror groups have been indulging in abduction, extortion and drug trafficking in the area for a long time by holding Rohingyas hostage in the different camps,” said Nur Khan Liton, a prominent human rights activist who has worked in the camps.
The terror groups were becoming fearful of Mohib Ullah as he was organizing the Rohingya community against criminal activities and also working towards their safe repatriation, he added.
More than a million Rohingya are now living in 34 camps in Cox’s Bazar.
How much crime?
According to Cox’s Bazar police, altogether 3,023 Rohingyas have been convicted in 1,297 cases filed since 2017.
Among the cases, 73 were filed on charges of murder, 762 on narcotics charges, 28 for human trafficking, 87 for carrying of illegal weapons, 65 on rape charges, 10 for robberies, 35 for kidnapping and ransom, and 89 on various other charges.
“Every night is horrific for us as the camp turns into hell. Gunshots are very common now and are gradually increasing in frequency. We often hear people’s screams,” said a Rohingya refugee who lives in a camp in Kutupalong, Ukhiya.
“We sometimes see criminals running around with long knives and long sticks as well,” he added, asking to remain anonymous.
A female Rohingya volunteer working for an international organization said she was kidnapped by a criminal group last year. They held her hostage for a few hours and threatened to harm her if she did not stop her volunteer work.
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She continued to work for some time after the kidnapping, but resigned after her husband was attacked and severely injured.
“Sometimes, they also kidnap people for ransom or rape,” she added.
Manji, who works to ensure discipline at one of the camps, said: “In many cases, ordinary Rohingya people flee to another block of the camp once a terror group starts a drive for extortion. If anyone refuses to accede to their demands, they attack innocent people.”
Naimul Haque, superintendent of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) in Cox’s Bazar, said the cramped conditions at the camps led to more crimes being committed.
He denied that ARSA elements were active inside the camps.
Is it necessary to revise the security system?
On July 1, the APBn took over the responsibility of ensuring security in the 34 camps. Intelligence agencies and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) are also working in the camps, with 15 battalions monitoring the Rohingya.
However, all of these security forces conduct regular patrols only during the day. Operations at night are limited to special drives, giving criminal and terror groups significant freedom to carry out their agendas.
According to locals, many Rohingyas leave the camps at night to conduct their criminal activities and then return before sunrise.
However, Mohammad Atiqul Mamun, CiC of camp 1 (east), said: “We now operate at the camp around the clock. A limited team stays at night to deal with incidents.”
He added that the crowded conditions made it very difficult to find criminals and prevent crimes.