Bangladesh tells international charities to stop aiding Rohingyas

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 02, 2012 7:24 AM
Bangladesh tells international charities to stop aiding Rohingyas

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh told three international aid agencies on Thursday not to help thousands of Rohingyas Muslims who have been fleeing into Bangladesh to escape violence in neighboring Myanmar.

France's Médecins Sans Frontières, British-based Muslim Aid and Action Against Hunger were told about the ban by Joynul Bari, commissioner of the southeastern border district of Cox's Bazar, which he said was meant to discourage illegal migration from strife-torn Myanmar.

Bari said the directive came from Bangladesh's NGO (non-governmental organization) Affairs Bureau which regulates aid groups.

The charities were not immediately available for comment, but have already faced pressure not to aid a new influx of Rohingyas.

Longstanding tensions between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas boiled over in Myanmar's Rakhine state in early June, resulting in a series of arson and machete attacks in which authorities say 77 people were killed and more than 100 wounded.

Myanmar security forces killed, raped or carried out mass arrests of Rohingyas after the violence started, New York-based Human Rights Watch said, raising questions about the government's ability to manage an ethnically diverse nation emerging from decades strict military rule.

There are at least 800,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar but they are not recognized as one of its ethnic groups.

Majority-Muslim Bangladesh has sought to turn back Rohingyas from entering the country, fearing an exodus from Myanmar, and police on Thursday arrested nine Rohingyas from a hotel in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

Nearly 30,000 Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh in the early 1990s to escape alleged persecution by Myanmar's military junta now live in two refugee camps in Cox's Bazar run by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Bangladesh officials said there is a floating population of hundreds of thousands Rohingyas living illegally in Cox's Bazar.

A Cox's Bazar resident told Reuters on Thursday that Rohingyas are still trickling in to Bangladesh by sea and forests along the border, ignoring a warning by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that new refugees will be turned away.

"We can take no more refugees" she told parliament last month.

(Reporting by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Ed Lane)