COX’S BAZAR: Since Aug. 25, more than 536,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, the Inter Sector Coordination Group said Thursday. But unofficial local sources put the figure at 600,000.
Around 150 Rohingya have died in the last six weeks due to at least four incidents of boats capsizing en route to Bangladesh. The bodies were recovered by Bangladeshi authorities.
“We can’t cross the river (Naaf) during the day as the Myanmar Army opens fire on boats carrying refugees, so we start the horrifying journey at night,” Bokhtiar Alam, who reached Kutupalang camp a week ago, told Arab News.
The small fishing boats carry 30-70 Rohingya at a time, which is “very risky, especially during the darkness of night,” he said.
Rejoan Huq, another refugee in Kutupalang, told Arab News: “While fleeing from Buchidong, Myanmar, we noticed signboards saying ‘Muslim-free area,’ and the army was celebrating along with local Buddhists.”
He added: “Many of my neighbors from Jambunia, Shooterpara and Mongnipara villages are hiding in paddy fields. Some have taken shelter in boatmen’s residence waiting to cross the river.”
Noor Hossain, a local official from Teknaf Thana, told Arab News: “Around 50 Bangladeshi boatmen and a few Myanmar boatmen are transporting Rohingya to Bangladesh. For the last few days, 3,000-5,000 Rohingya entered Bangladesh everyday through the Shah Porir Dip (an island in the Bay of Bengal). We’re giving them emergency food and water, then sending them to camps in Ukhia.”
Rohingya refugee Mohammed Alamin told Arab News: “We needed to pay 3,000-5,000 Bangladeshi taka per head ($38-$63) to cross the river. Many of my neighbors are still waiting on the other side as they can’t afford the boat fare.”
Nurul Alam who was a private staff of Lo Juung, the judge of Mongdu court, told Arab News: “The Myanmar Army threatened to shoot us if we didn’t leave. We weren’t allowed to visit the nearby market to buy daily commodities.”
Alam added: “I used to receive 218,000 kyat (Myanmar’s currency), which is equivalent to $163, every month as a salary. I was a rich person in my community. Neighbors used to respect me and my family members. Now we’re refugees without a penny.”