Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh held a silent protest on Tuesday to mark the third anniversary of clashes between Rohingya and Myanmar security forces.
More than a million Rohingya live in the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s bazaar, with little prospect of returning to Myanmar, where they are mostly denied citizenship and other rights.
The refugees said because of the novel coronavirus they would not hold a mass gathering to mark what they call “Remembrance Day”.
Authorities say 88 cases of the virus have been found in the camps and six people have died.
“No, there was no gathering of people anywhere in the camps. All the activities in the camps were off. We stayed indoors. Some went to mosques and prayed for those killed,” said Mohammad Noor, leader of a camp at Kutupalong.
Three years ago, Rohingya insurgents raided 30 police posts and an army base in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, killing at least 12 members of the security forces.
The Myanmar military crackdown that followed forced 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, joining more than 200,000 already there.
Rohingya remain in Rakhine today, life continues to resemble an open-air prison, he said.
Close to 128,000 Rohingya, who were displaced by state-sponsored violence in 2012, continue to live in squalid displacement camps, with limited access to education and other basic necessities. Besides, renewed fighting in Rakhine between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, has further imperiled the lives of civilians in the region.
“We were forcibly driven out from our motherland to the world’s largest refugee camp,” Rohingya groups said.
The UN said the crackdown by the Myanmar military was carried out with genocidal intent.
Myanmar denies genocide, saying its forces were engaged in a legitimate campaign against the Rohingya insurgents, and it was the insurgents who were responsible for most of the violence, including the torching of villages.
The refugees said Rohingya had faced “hidden genocide” in Myanmar for decades and they appealed to the UN and other organisations to declare what happened in 2017 genocide.
“Please stand with innocent Rohingya, and then hopefully we can return to our home,” they said in the statement.
In some rare good news for the refugees, Bangladesh said on Monday it would soon lift a ban on high-speed mobile internet in the camps that authorities imposed in 2019, citing concern that social media would be used to stir panic.