We are deeply concerned at the tensions prevailing in Teknaf’s Hnila union, between locals and Rohingyas, following the murder of a Jubo League leader at a refugee camp in the area on Thursday, August 22. According to reports, the victim was shot dead by members of a Rohingya criminal gang. The incident led to hundreds of angry locals vandalising make-shift houses and offices in the camp before blocking the Cox’s Bazar-Tekhnaf highway on Friday in protest. It reflects the volatile situation in these areas where locals are already getting weary of the continued presence of refugees. The criminal activities by Rohingya gang members, who have links with local criminal gangs, have exacerbated an already tense situation. News reports have cited allegations of a politician hiring the Rohingya gang members (who died in “gunfight” with law enforcers) to eliminate his political rival. Thus these criminal elements among the Rohingyas are now becoming involved in the politics of the area as well.
From what we have gathered, both locals and Rohingya refugees are feeling insecure after this incident which could easily conflagrate into an untenable situation. Rohingya gangs are a threat also to the ordinary Rohingya refugees and they have little protection against these criminals. In the last two years, 43 Rohingyas have been murdered in the camps and 32 have died in gunfights.
The latest incident happened right at the time when a second attempt by the government to repatriate the first batch of Rohingya refugees was made and which ultimately was in vain. The murder acted as fuel to the fire.
At this point, the most immediate step the authorities must take is to ensure law and order in the Rohingya camps and surrounding areas. This should be done with the help of Rohingya leaders which will, no doubt, make such efforts more effective. The authorities must appeal to the locals to stay calm and not take law into their own hands. Tolerance and patience must be promoted. We must make sure that these criminal elements do not get the upper hand and make the situation even worse.