February 17, 2023
DHAKA – We are quite worried about the findings of a report by the defence ministry concerning the security situation in the Rohingya camps of Cox’s Bazar. Reportedly, 10 terrorist and dacoit gangs are active in the camps and getting engaged in all kinds of criminal activities there. While the militant outfit Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) controls most of the camps, other groups – such as RSO, Master Munna gang, Islami Mahaj, Nabi Hussain dacoit gang, etc. – also operate there. These groups often engage in clashes to establish their dominance over the camps. The defence ministry report mentioned 32 incidents of murder that took place in 2022 alone, some of which were caused by these clashes.
Needless to say, the findings are quite alarming. Assessing the causes behind the situation and ensuring security in the area are crucial.
While the ministry’s report mentioned lack of surveillance and regular patrolling as one of the reasons for Arsa getting stronger in the camps, we wonder what could possibly be the reason for the rise of other militant groups. Which brings us to the issue of the overall treatment of Rohingyas in the camps. Reportedly, they are being forced to live in cramped conditions without the freedom to move freely, which is also impacting their livelihood opportunities. Then, there is a serious lack of educational opportunities for the Rohingya children and youth. There have also been concerns raised by the Human Rights Watch earlier this year about the abuse of power by Bangladesh’s Armed Police Battalion (APBn). Reportedly, many involved with APBn committed extortion, arbitrary arrests, and harassment of Rohingya refugees, which is alarming.
The result of all this is growing frustration among the Rohingya people, particularly the youth, who neither can go back to their home country nor have proper opportunities to lead a dignified life here. Their frustration about and desperation for a better life often results in internal disputes. Sadly, many also get engaged in various criminal activities.
While the government has been taking care of this large group of refugees despite the challenging economic situation, it seems to be not enough, particularly because of decreased funding from the foreign donors. Reportedly, UN humanitarian agencies and the government sought USD 881 million from various donors across the world in 2022, but the latter only disbursed a total of USD 431 million to the Joint Response Plan (JRP) fund. There is also uncertainty over how much funds the government will get this year for supporting the Rohingyas.
Under these circumstances, the criminal groups mentioned by the defence ministry must be neutralised through proper measures, and the overall security in and around the camp areas must be beefed up. Lastly, the living conditions of the refugees must be improved so that they are not tempted to join any terrorist activity or create anarchy in the area.