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Fleeing fighting in Rakhine, Rohingya pay to be smuggled to Bangladesh

Authorities, recently arrived refugees say clashes between Myanmar junta, rebels drove them across the border.


July 3, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Rohingya are being brought into southeastern Bangladesh by smugglers as fighting between ethnic rebel groups and junta-aligned forces worsens next-door in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, said officials and border crossers interviewed by BenarNews.

Smugglers are targeting members of the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority who are trying to flee clashes between Myanmar’s junta and the Arakan Army, one of the most prominent militias, according to interviews with authorities and Rohingya who recently arrived at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district.

Police said they had tightened security at the border, but conceded that more people had been crossing over from Myanmar in recent weeks.

“As the sound of explosions continued on the Myanmar side, I learned that a part of the Rohingyas are staying in different places on the bank of the Naf river on Myanmar’s side,” Teknaf Municipality Panel Mayor Mujibur Rahman told BenarNews.

Mohammad Yusuf, a Rohingya who recently traveled to Bangladesh from the Buthidaung area of Rakhine, said he stayed in the mountains for 40 days where he survived by eating leaves.

“There were 13 members of my family. But suddenly one day, a bomb exploded in my village, and then everyone ran away to save their lives. It is not known where the rest have gone,” he told BenarNews. “We, two brothers together, walked for three days in the hilly area and swam across the river. We were accompanied by seven other people from other villages on the journey.” 

While Yusuf’s group traveled to Bangladesh, he said others worked with brokers to go to Indonesia or Malaysia.

“Families who have money are mainly trying to send young people [away from Myanmar] as youths become targets of both the Arakan Army and Myanmar military,” he said.

Authorities said smugglers – known as “brokers” locally – are active on both sides of the Naf, which marks the border between southeastern Bangladesh and northwestern Myanmar.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said over 70,000 Rohingya were trapped in Rakhine as fighting rages.

Community leaders said brokers were collecting money from Rohingya to leave Myanmar, but did not release any details about recent crossings.

Mohammad Amir Zafar, who commands an Armed Police Battalion (APBn) in Bangladesh, said Rohingya who have been forced from their homes are willing to pay to get across the border.



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