Dhaka – Thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps have demanded justice for ‘genocide’ carried out allegedly by Myanmar army on the ethnic minority group in Myanmar two years ago.
“We want the soldiers and their agents to be put in trial for the genocide, rape and other crimes committed in the Rakhine state of Myanmar,” a leader of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Human Rights and Peace, told a rally at a slum in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on Sunday.
The advocacy group organized the rally to commemorate the second anniversary of the military crackdown on the Muslim-minority group in Myanmar. More than 740,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh in the face of crackdown, which the Myanmar military tried to justify saying an anti-insurgency clearance operation.
The United Nations termed the clampdown a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” as unknown number of people were killed and tortured, and that Rohingya women allegedly reaped and their homes torched after the crackdown launched on early August 25, 2017.
Bangladesh witnessed a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims after the South Asian country opened its border on humanitarian ground.
The Rohingya, living in the world’s largest refugee settlement in Ukhiya joined the gathering chanting slogans to demand justice for the attacks. The Muslims raised their hands up to pray for those killed in the brutal crackdown by the Burmese military.
Muhib Ullah, the chief of the advocacy group, put five-point demands asking the Myanmar authorities to open a dialogue with the Rohingya for their peaceful, safe and dignified return to their homes, from where they were evicted.
The demands included citizenship of the Rohingya, who were stripped of nationality by Myanmar government in the 1980s, safety and right to movement in Myanmar.
Men, women and children are among many others who joined the rally holding placards inscribed with demands for justice for Rohingya. One of the placard was seen raised above carrying “Genocide Day Special Prayers”, the other says “Talk to us about citizenship and Rohingya ethnicity”.
They also observed the day as genocide day in the camp.
The government permitted the refugees to hold the demonstration as they observed the anniversary of crackdown, but the local residents, who are outnumbered because of the refugee influx, express anger saying that permission to holding such rallies would jeopardize peace and harmony in the area.
The anniversary was organized barely three days after a second attempt of repatriation move failed after the refugees refuse to go back to Myanmar on August 22 under a voluntary repatriation deal signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar. The refugees say the atmosphere in the Buddhist-majority Rakhine state of Myanmar was not safe yet for the Rohingya.
The government put every preparation to send some of the 3,450 refugees, cleared by the Myanmar authorities to return, from a list of some 22,000 refugees submitted by Bangladesh.
The refugees also demanded that they cannot go to Myanmar unless the authorities ensure that they are the citizen of that country, making the prospect of their speedy return home very slim.
The Rohingya have faced generations of marginalisation and disenfranchisement in Myanmar. Most say they won’t return home until their rights are guaranteed, but Myanmar does not recognise the community as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups.