Social Issues

Concern in Bangladesh after probe says Rohingya camp fire was sabotage

Dhaka, Mar 13 (EFE).- The results of an investigation in Bangladesh, which said that a fire that gutted a Rohingya refugee camp earlier this month was the result of planned sabotage, has triggered concern among activists who have flagged the rising number of attacks against the shelters.

“After analyzing the whole thing we thought it was ill-motivated, (aimed at) establishing supremacy,” Abu Sufian, the head of a seven-member probe body told a press conference in the Cox’s Bazar district – where the camp is situated – on Sunday.

He added that the investigators are yet to pinpoint the perpetrators of the crime.

“Since it is an act of sabotage, our first point is to file a case, hold an in-depth investigation and bring the perpetrators to book,” he added.

Local activist Nur Khan Liton told EFE on Monday that the arson seemed the part of a pattern.

“Recently we are seeing few activities to destabilize the Rohingya camp. (…) They clearly indicate few vested groups are involved in acts of sabotage in a planned way,” he added.

Liton said that this could be part of an attempt to establish certain groups’ supremacy in the camp and “suppress dissenting views.”

“The fire started in four to five spots” almost simultaneously, Sufian said, adding that some people strategically prevented the fire from being extinguished initially, urging people to run and save their lives instead of trying to douse the flames.

The fire broke out on Mar. 5 at one of the camps in Kutupalong Balukhali, administered by the International Organization for Migration, in the southern Cox’s Bazar district.

It resulted in almost half of the camps 32,200 residents being displaced, with over 3,000 shelters getting destroyed and over 155 facilities – including hospitals and educational centers – being damaged, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

No casualties were reported despite the rapid and massive spread of the fire, which took up to three hours to be extinguished.

On the next day, the police arrested a young Rohingya man on the suspicion of starting the fire, although no culprits have been named by the authorities so far.

The Rohingya refugee camps are prone to fires due to the lack of facilities, their overcrowding and the fragile wooden, bamboo and plastic huts that are spread over the entire area.

The situation of refugees in Bangladesh is increasingly complex.

The UN has made numerous appeals to donors due to insufficient funding which has forced it to cut back its food assistance to the camps.

Bangladesh is home to over 925,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled neighboring Myanmar, including around 774,000 who escaped after the military launched a campaign in 2017 described as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the UN. EFE


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