NEW YORK: Human Rights Watch (HRW), a prominent international watchdog group, has called on the Bangladeshi government to accept and protect the Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.
The New York-based rights group made the plea on Wednesday after Bangladesh threatened to send the Rohingya refugees who have arrived in its territory back to Myanmar, where the Myanmarese government and extremist Buddhists have been harassing them.
A day earlier, Bangladeshi police had detained some 70 Rohingya Muslims, including several children.
Reports say an estimated 500 Rohingya Muslims arrived in Bangladesh over the past week, bringing the overall number of the Rohingyas who have fled to the country to more than 2,000 despite heavy security on both sides.
HRW has several times released high-resolution satellite imagery showing how Rohingya villages in Myanmar have been burned down. Extremist Buddhists have reportedly been attacking the ethnic Muslims in Myanmar, and the government, too, has imposed a siege on and been carrying out a crackdown in the state of Rakhine, where the Muslims are concentrated.
There are reports of rapes and murders by the government forces and the Buddhists in Rakhine. Some of the refugees who have crossed into Bangladesh have said their villages were burned down and their relatives killed by Myanmar’s army.
Bangladeshi border guards have stopped nearly a thousand Rohingya Muslims on the border in recent days.
Rohingya community members say anyone sent back to Myanmar could face death at the hands of the authorities.
Rakhine, home to around 1.1 million members of the minority Rohingya Muslim community, has been the scene of communal violence since 2012. The Rohingyas are largely confined to camps in dire situations.
The Rohingya community, which the government brands as “illegal
immigrants” from Bangladesh, has been suffering widely-reported systematic aggression for years on end. The violence has been interpreted as an attempt to force them out of the country’s demographic configuration.