Hundreds of Rohingyas crossed the Myanmar border into Bangladesh in the wee hours yesterday and took shelter at different places including the Leda refugee camp at Mochina, some 15km north of Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar coastal area.
Most of the families who managed to enter Bangladesh leaving the male members – those remained missing or died in Myanmar – looked terrified, exhausted and hungry while huddling in the already crowded makeshift camp.
By accounts of about 20 newly-arrived Rohingyas yesterday, it soon became clear that the crisis is now generating more money for the human traffickers.
At Teknaf, the regional commanders of BGB and Border Guard Police of Myanmar sat for a courtesy meeting at the BGB Rest House yesterday. Meeting sources said that the two sides had absolutely no discussions over the ongoing Rohingya crisis. They, however, agreed to share information to stop infiltration and smuggling.
Meanwhile, the refugees who arrived yesterday said that they had been hiding by the Naf River on the Myanmar side ever since their homes were torched to ashes in October. The Myanmar Army razed to the ground the entire village of Kearipara in Maungdaw with 250 households. Many of the villagers were brutally killed and raped, they alleged.
“Like us, thousands of homeless families are hiding across the river under the open sky; they will die if they can not cross the river,” said Mohammad Rafik, 24, who had arrived at Leda.
Rafik was separated from his family of two children and wife when the Myanmar Army launched the latest onslaught. “I drifted in the forest starving for days knowing that the military will shoot me on sight because I am tall and well-built,” Rafik said in tears. “I do not know how I shall ever find my family again.”
Some of the families alleged that once they had been successful in their attempt to cross the river dodging the eyes of the law enforcers, they were robbed of all their belongings on the Bangladesh side.
Zahid Alam, a madrasa student at Gobijil village, 10km from Maungdaw, arrived at the same camp around 9am with nine members of his family. “Each one of us paid Tk7,000 to the boatmen who brought us here,” Zahid claimed.
As more and more people started arriving at the Leda camp, they were welcomed by other Rohingyas living in the official but temporary refugee camp for years.
“This is such a situation you can not walk away from; we are so helpless, we have no home and no identity,” said Amir Hossain, secretary of the Leda Makeshift Camp in Mochina.
Abdul Alim came with 12 members of his family paying Tk8,000 each to the Bangladeshi boatman.
Meanwhile, the Teknaf land port authorities, only dealing with export and import in Myanmar’s Maungdaw and Akia, said that all export and import from Maungdaw had remained suspended since October 9.
“We have continued export and import with Akia in Yangon but with Maungdaw where most of the businessmen are Rohingyas it is totally closed,” Abu Noor Khalid, operations manager of the port, said.
The immigration authorities also suspended issuing temporary visit passes for Maungdaw.
The Foreign Ministry yesterday summoned the Myanmar ambassador to Bangladesh, Myo Myint Than, and handed him over a letter expressing serious concerns. The ambassador, however, denied the reports of atrocities against the Rohingyas in Rakhine state terming those fabricated.
Morshed Ali Khan is a veteran conflict zone reporter who is operating as a freelancer for this story.