Bangladesh urged to protect Rohingyas after deadly clashes in refugee camps

Dhaka, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- Rights watchdog Amnesty International on Friday urged Bangladesh to protect Rohingyas after violent clashes left at least eight people dead in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps.

According to the nonprofit, at least 2,000 Rohingya refugees have been forced to flee their shelters and move to other camps since violence broke out Oct. 4 between two rival factions allegedly over controlling the illicit trade of contraband drugs inside the camps.

Four people were killed on Oct. 6 in the deadliest clash of the week, after around a dozen shelters were set on fire in the Kutupalong refugee camp.

“The situation inside the camps is highly precarious and, unless the authorities take the necessary action to quell the violence and protect refugees, there’s a serious risk of further bloodshed,” Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner for Amnesty International, warned in a statement.

“Those suffering the most are the Rohingya refugees caught in the middle. The Bangladeshi authorities must heighten security inside the camps as long as necessary to ensure their safety and launch an immediate and impartial investigation into the violence to bring those responsible to justice,” he added.

Cox’s Bazar police spokesperson Mohammad Rafiqul Islam told EFE on Friday that the situation had returned to “normal” after they deployed additional forces.

“The situation is now good, normal, there is no problem. (…) Two armed police battalions were on regular duty. Additional forces from district police have joined them in the camp. We are responding as and when required,” he said.

Islam said the police had registered five cases of homicide over the incidents and arrested 12 people.

Quoting Rohingya sources, AI said the clashes broke out between a group that has been operating a drug cartel within the refugee camp and another armed group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), as they vie for control of the camps.

“The violence reportedly started after negotiations over a partnership between the two groups broke down,” said the rights group.

The ARSA, a rebel group of the community, was named as the perpetrator of a series of attacks in neighboring Myanmar’s northern Rakhine (Arakan) province in 2017, following which the Myanmar army launched a brutal retaliatory campaign that led to a massive Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh.

However, Islam denied the presence of ARSA in the camp and said the clashes broke out over the differing interests of Rohingya groups present in the camp.

“We don’t have any information about ARSA. (…) We have engaged our special forces to investigate the matter. Once they complete the investigation, we can give you details,” he said.

Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees have been living in Bangladesh’s camps since August 2017, following a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN has described as ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Myanmar does not use the term Rohingya and also does not recognize the group as citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. EFE-EPA


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