Separatist groups behind escalating violence in Rohingya camps

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News Desk

Friday marks six years since Rohingyas sought shelter in Bangladesh, and they are still stranded amid the complexities of geopolitics. Over the past six years, a total of 186 killings have occurred in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. Of these, 85 took place between August 25, 2022 and August 24 this year. In comparison, there had been 101 murders overall in the previous five years.

According to camp residents, many of the killings can be linked to drug deals, extortion, kidnapping, smuggling and turf wars. Some Rohingya separatists also resorted to murder when they did not get ransom money after kidnapping. The involvement of groups like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) and Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) in such activities has also come to light.

Furthermore, there has been a clear instance of gunfire exchange between Arsa and the RSO.

Due to global pressure, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement in 2017 on Rohingya repatriation. However, this process has not started yet, keeping the crisis alive. Meanwhile, tension is growing in the 33 Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf, leading to a rise in crimes, including murders.

Weapons drills in camps
According to several local community leaders, Arsa and the RSO separatist groups enter the camps every evening and parade with arms. Almost every day, they enter Rohingya homes, torture them and snatch their belongings. In such a situation, they are having sleepless nights.

However, when the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) raids the Rohingya camps, the separatist groups take positions in different hideouts and hills and forests. Once the operations end, they sneak back into the camps at night, cutting the wire fences and resuming their wrongdoings.

Some unidentified attackers killed an 18-year-old Rohingya youth named Mohammad Yunus at Kutupalong-8 Rohingya camp in Ukhiya’s Rajapalang union around 7:30pm on Tuesday.

Camp resident Mohammad Amin said: “Yunus was a student at the local madrasa. He had no conflicts with anyone. They suspected he had been providing information about Arsa members, so they killed him. We are living in fear due to murders in the camps.”

According to district police and the APBn, there have been 186 killings in the 33 Rohingya camps in the last six years. Among the dead were community leaders, volunteers and ordinary Rohingyas. In the eight months of this year, 46 people have been killed in multiple clashes and shootings.

In the previous four months, 39 people were killed. Of them, 18 were Rohingya community leaders, 12 were members of Arsa, one was a volunteer and others were ordinary Rohingyas.

11 separatist groups active
According to a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Defence published on February 15, at least 11 Rohingya separatist groups are active inside the Rohingya camps – they run extortion rackets, are involved in yaba trade, human trafficking and kidnapping, and constantly engage in turf wars. Members of these separatist groups are also involved in rapes.

Stopping these crimes has proven difficult for authorities even after occasional raids.

Arsa-RSO conflict at its peak
According to various Rohingya community leaders, tension between Arsa and the RSO has reached a peak. A faction within Arsa led by Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi is facing disagreements over its goals.

The RSO aims to create a separate faction, which poses a potential threat. Additionally, there is the presence of another camp’s separatist group named Nobi Hossain group.

Furthermore, many Rohingyas are also fed up with Arsa and are secretly supporting the RSO. They believe the latter wants to maintain peace in the camps – when in reality both groups are involved in criminal activities.

Police looking for 60 individuals
The APBn has stated that the police have compiled a list of members of Rohingya separatist groups. The list includes the names of 60 individuals. A special operation will be launched to arrest them.

Law enforcement agencies and Rohingya leaders said Nobi Hossain Group, Munna Group, Dakat Abdul Hakim Group, Dakat Md Saleh Group, Islamic Mahas Group and Al-Yaqin Group are among the separatist groups. Besides, several more groups are active in the camps using Arsa’s name.

Rohingya childrenThe undated image shows some Rohingya children playing in the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Photo: Collected

Hundreds of kidnappings

Many Rohingyas have become involved in kidnappings by collaborating with hill militants and Arsa. More than 500 kidnappings have taken place in the camps in the past six years. Kidnapping is now a daily occurrence in Teknaf and Ukhiya. At least five to six groups were involved in the kidnappings. However, according to the police, there were 359 kidnappings.

Most of the kidnappings go unreported, as filing a complaint can lead to the abductee being killed. Instead, ransom payments often secure the release, some victims said.

Police statement
APBn Police Superintendent Md Saifuzzaman said: “Members of multiple groups are involved in turf wars, drug trade, kidnapping and extortion. Crime and murder are on the rise as a result of these conflicts.

“We have so far arrested 90 people in connection with the murders. Operations are on to arrest the rest. We are working day and night to prevent these crimes. The camps are under our control. Whoever is involved in crimes will be brought to book.”

He further said: “In the last six years, 332 people have been arrested in connection with the recovery of 400 firearms and 500 locally made weapons in raids on the camps. At the same time, 1,697 Rohingyas were arrested with more than 3.9 million pieces of yaba tablets and 40kg of ice.”

Besides, 94 people have been arrested in 70 cases in connection with the abduction of 359 Rohingyas and sent to jail through the court, he added.

Panic grips Cox’s Bazar
Local residents of Cox’s Bazar said Rohingyas are becoming desperate day by day. As the days go by, they become more frightening. Since the arrival of Rohingyas, the use of drugs, smuggling, kidnapping and extortion has increased. The safety of our lives is at risk.”

On August 19, RAB raided an arms manufacturing factory in the remote hills of Rangikhali under Hnila union of Teknaf and arrested six people. A large quantity of arms and bullets were recovered from the factory. Normal life is being disrupted by such raids going on at different times.

Ukhiya, Teknaf residents living in fear
Cox’s Bazar Citizens’ Rights Movement Member Secretary HM Nazrul Islam said the people of the entire district are under threat due to the Rohingyas.

“We want a Rohingya-free Cox’s Bazar. Rohingyas commit murders in public. Rohingyas are openly committing murders and using weapons against locals. Essentially, the police are powerless in this situation. With each passing day, Rohingyas are growing more desperate, resulting in attacks on the local population. The crime rate in the camps is also skyrocketing. If the Rohingyas do not return [to Myanmar], it is possible that one day the locals might have to leave the district.”

Hnila Union Parishad Chairman Rashed Mahmud Ali said: “The people of Ukhiya and Teknaf live in great fear because of Rohingyas. In the presence of 1.2 million Rohingyas, the locals have become a minority. Even when Rohingyas commit various crimes, they cannot be turned over to the police. The limited number of police officers cannot effectively manage them across multiple camps. As night descends, Ukhiya and Teknaf become places of panic.”

Balukhali Rohingya camp leader Nur Hossain said: “It has been six years in Bangladesh, and we have not yet gotten any solutions. Rohingyas and local residents are insecure in the camps. Now Arsa and the RSO are openly committing murders in these camps. As a result, murders are on the rise. We just want to return home. “\

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