Colombo, September 20 (newsin.asia): Sixty percent of the 410,000 Rohingyas who had fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks are women and children; 1400 of them are orphans; and 13% are lactating and pregnant mothers; according to UNICEF, a top Bangladeshi official said here on Wednesday.
Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session on Tuesday, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “ It is an unbearable human catastrophe. I have visited them and listened to the stories of their grave sufferings, particularly of women and children.”
In the video documentary entitled: “The Rohingya: Abandoned/Persecuted/Lost” made by a group of concerned people, Hasina said the Myanmar government’s armed actions should not affect innocent common people.
“How can women and children commit crimes?” she asked, referring to the fact that the majority of the refugees are women and children.
Myanmar, followed by China and India, has characterized the Rohingya issue as a terrorist problem posing a serious security threat to themselves and the region.
Footage in the documentary shot in refugee camps set up in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh show doctors saying that diarrhea and blood pressure are common among adult refugees.
“This patient is as good as dead,” said one doctor, pointing to an emaciated middle aged woman.
The influx into Bangladesh has been on since 1978 when the Manmarese military junta started armed action against the Rohingyas in the North Western state of Rakhine.
A monk, who commented on the reasons for the crackdown, simply stated: “We are Buddhists and they are Muslims.”
In 1983, the junta denied the entire community of Rohingyas (now numbering 1.1 million) Myanarese citizenship. They were issued “White Cards” as a mark of identity. But a Bangladesh source said that in subsequent military crackdowns even the White Cards were taken away though receipts were given.
In March 2017, during Myanmar’s Army Day celebrations, it was declared that the Rohingyas are not Myanmerese citizens but “Bengali” immigrants.
But the Rohingyas interviewed in the documentary insisted that they are not Bengalis but Myanmarese. Some of them had Myanmarese sounding names.
In fact it would be wrong to say that the Rohingyas are Bengalis as their language is akin to the Bengali dialect of Chittagong “with a heavy admixture of Arabic, Persian and Afghan.”
The Rohingyas, also known as Arakanese, have been living in Arakan or Rakhine state for centuries and had been migrants from various parts of Bengal during Muslim and British rule in the Indian sub-continent.
Encouraged by the military and other arms of the Myanmarese State, persecution of the Rohingyas had been continuous and relentless over years.
“We could not stand it anymore,” said a women who was crying continuously as she related the community’s woes on camera.
Stirred by the suffering of the Rohingyas, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the “excesses” while Pope Frances called upon the faithful “to pray for the Rohingyas”. Telling the Buddhist majority in Myanmar that they are on the wrong path, the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama said that if the Buddha were alive, “he would have supported the Rohingyas”.
Bangladesh has set apart 2000 acres of forest land for setting up camps for the Rohingyas.
The Bangladesh government is in this for the long haul as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina indicated in the documentary.
“Despite being an over-populated country, Bangladesh will keep them till they (the Mayamarese) take them back,” she said.
But Hasina has little or no hope.
“ They are laying landmines on the border to prevent the return of the refugees,” she said in New York.
The Myanmarese leader, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, on Tuesday offered to take the refugees back “after scrutiny” to check for citizenship.
But Bangladeshi government sources say that despite the existence of two bilateral repatriation agreements, only a few thousands have gone back so far.
Firstly, most Rohingyas have been denied citizenship since the early 1980s and have been issued identity cards called White Cards.
“But even these were seized later. Receipts were issued. But in the ongoing violence many would have lost these slips of paper,” a Bangladeshi official said.
“Suu Kyi’s televised speech on Tuesday had nothing concrete, ” the official said.
“ While regretting the violence and the suffering inflicted on people, she did not mention the Rohingyas even once. While appealing to the world to appreciate Myanmar’s difficulties, she did not regret the disproportionate use of force, the arson and other atrocities.”
“She has invited diplomats to visit the affected areas, but there is no word about granting access to the media and aid agencies,” the official noted.
Suu Kyi herself admitted that violence had affected half of the villages in Rakhine State. International organizations say that 178 of the 478 villages had been “burnt to ashes.”
Suu Kyi said that military operations ceased on September 5 and that the situation is coming to normal.But Human Rights Watch has said that it has satellite pictures of fires in 70 sites after September 5.