Why Rohingyas do not want to return to Myanmar?

  • Masum Billah, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2019-08-22 00:50:15 BdST

Mohammad Islam, a Rohingya man from Rakhine State capital Maungdaw, fled to Bangladesh with his mother on Aug 25, 2017 when the Myanmar army-led crackdown began.

His brother and sister came a few days later, but there has been no news of their father yet.

The family now live in a shack made of bamboo and plastic sheets, depending on relief materials provided by different agencies, inside a crammed refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district.     

They are among 3,450 people of camps No. 24, 26 and 27, cleared by Myanmar for repatriation from a list of more than 22,000 refugees that Bangladesh provided.

“We won’t go back without citizenship,” Islam told bdnews24.com on Wednesday, pointing out the key condition the refugees have been speaking about for repatriation.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and Bangladesh are jointly surveying the Rohingyas cleared by Myanmar to determine whether they will accept Myanmar’s offer to return home.  

The UN and many others have expressed concern over the violence and hostile condition for the Muslim Rohingyas in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, demanding that the country ensure justice, safety, dignity and rights of the refugees before taking them back. 

The world body has said the Myanmar military operation, which forced at least 730,000 members of the ethnic minority to take shelter in Bangladesh, was perpetrated with "genocidal intent".

The UNHCR-Bangladesh joint move is part of a fresh bid to start the repatriation, which was stalled nearly a year ago as the refugees refused to go back in fear of more violence. 

After returning to his shack at Block H of camp No. 26 at Shalbagan in Teknaf from a makeshift office set by the UNHCR for the survey, Islam said: “They (Myanmar) must also give us the right to our land, compensation for what harms they have done to us, and security.”

He also demanded release of the Rohingyas detained in Myanmar without trial.

He said he had talked to UNHCR on behalf of three members of his family.


bdnews24.com spoke to 14 other Rohingyas out of 200 surveyed by the UNHCR, and the conversations centred around at least four conditions for repatriation to start.

These are: citizenship, security, compensation, and land right.

Like Islam, Hasina Begum’s path to Bangladesh was fraught with danger.

She left her husband behind in Myanmar and now she is staying with her eight children in the shack.

“They (Myanmar) have raped us, killed us. How will we go back there without any security and citizenship?” she asked.

“We won’t return until everything is alright. We better be killed than be sent back,” Begum said. 

Another woman said Myanmar must recognise them as members of Rohingya ethnic minority before the country shows any intent to take its nationals back.

“Otherwise we are ready to be shot dead,” she said.

Bangladesh has said it will not force any Rohingya back to their homeland, and asked the international communities to press Myanmar to ensure the refugees safety, dignity and rights in Rakhine – a state conducive to starting the repatriation.

Myanmar has set up transit camps and talked to some Rohingya refugees assuring them of giving citizenship on certain conditions, which according to reports, most the refugees will fail to fulfil.

Myanmar sees the Rohingyas as Bangladeshi migrants, not one of its many own ethnic minority groups.

With these uncertainties and reports of violence still going on in Rakhine, only 21 of the refugees selected by Myanmar came to talk to the UNHCR.

The number rose on Wednesday, Mohammad Khaled Hossaain, a representative of the Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, told bdnews24.com.

“No-one will be forced to go back to Myanmar,” he said.