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Press Statement of Raja Devasish Roy, Chakma Circle Chief on Behalf of the Chakma Circle, Chittagong Hill Tracts on the “Rohingya issue

Raja Barrister Devashish Roy press conference at Raj office Rangamati on Rohingya issue. 17 September 2017. Rangamati, Chittagong Hill Tracts

Press Statement of Barrister Raja Devasish Roy

The inhabitants of the Chakma Circle are deeply distressed at the recent arrival in Bangladesh, in tragic circumstances, of a few hundred thousand men, women and children, members of ethnic and religious minorities groups, from Rakhine State, Myanmar or Burma.

In principle, we support the policy of the Government of Bangladesh in this matter. We condemn the discriminatory and violent conduct of the Government of Myanmar, which is contrary to human rights and humanitarian norms.

We appeal to the government to engage in bilateral and international diplomatic initiatives to facilitate the early repatriation of the refugees to their own homes and lands, with dignity, due compensation and safety and security.

However, until such repatriation is possible, it is the humanitarian responsibility of the Government of Bangladesh, and the citizens of the country, to provide refuge to these people. In this regard, we appeal to the citizens of Bangladesh and to the international community, to provide adequate financial and other support to the Government of Bangladesh, and UN agencies and NGOs involved in the matter.

It is important to ensure that the refugees only reside within designated refugee camps, for their own safety, security and welfare, and in order to safeguard the interests of Bangladesh, and of its citizens.

We have come to learn about promotional activities, propaganda, rumours, isolated incidents of violence, and incitement to violence, within Bangladesh, surrounding the issue of these refugees. We have heard of a number of incidents in Chittagong, Dhaka and Narayanganj districts, in which a number of indigenous people from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, who work in these areas or were visiting them, were subjected to verbal abuse, intimidation and violence, on account of their ethnic and/or religious origins. We are concerned about this and strongly condemn the perpetration of such acts.

Some quarters are portraying the events in Rakhine state as a religious conflict, based on the fact that the majority community in Myanmar or Burma is Buddhist, while the refugee community is predominantly from the Islamic faith. The unbridled expressions of such views are falsely leading to the conclusion that the Buddhists of Bangladesh are somehow responsible for the atrocities perpetrated on the Muslims of Rakhine State.

It is however seen that it is not only non-Buddhists who have suffered atrocities and other discriminatory conduct at the hands of the Government of Myanmar, particularly during military rule. There are countless other incidents in which Buddhist members of the majority Bamar community, and from the Shan, Rakhine, Mon and Karen peoples have also been subjected to similar acts.

Apart from this, on account of oppression against people of Indian or Bangladeshi descent, several thousand Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists (particularly from the Barua community) were forced to leave Burma, among others, in 1930, 1944-45 and 1962.

Numerous peoples, ethnic groups or communities have lived for long on both sides of the Bangla-Burma border. Most of these groups share common ancestry and culture with their kinfolk across the border. These include: (a) “Rohingya” and Chittagonean Bengali; (b) Rakhine and Marma; (c) Doingnak, Chakma and Tanchangya; (d) Chin, Bawm and Lushai/Mizo; and (e) Khumi, Mro, etc. Several of these groups or their clans or other sub-groups also live across the nearby border in India.

It is important to maintain friendly relations between and among these peoples and communities across the border, on account of human rights considerations, needs of a stable frontier and the exigencies of trade. For the same reason, it is imperative to maintain harmony between citizens of Bangladesh, whether Bengali, Hillpeople or from other indigenous peoples, belonging to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or other religions or spiritual traditions.

It has been reliably learnt that a section of the community known in Bangladesh and internationally as the “Rohingya”, and as “Bengali” or “Kola” in Burma, are involved in armed activities within Burma. Many innocent people in Rakhine State have been, and are still being subjected, to violence and discrimination at the hands of the Myanmar Government and its security forces on account of such activities, or at least partially so. We have heard of attacks having been perpetrated by these armed groups against Buddhist Doingnak in Rakhine State (The Doingnak of Rakhain State share historical ethnic and cultural origins and ongoing ties with the Chakma and Tanchangya of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Doingnak of Cox’s Bazar district).

The Government of Bangladesh needs to be vigilant in order to ensure that none among the “Rohingya” living in Bangladesh are party to any activities related to organized violence with arms, or other acts of violence, within Bangladesh or in Burma.

We hereby draw attention of all parties concerned and make the following appeal:

  1. For the Government of Bangladesh to engage in diplomatic initiatives, at bilateral and multilateral levels, to facilitate the early repatriation of the Burmese refugees to their own areas, with dignity, safety and security, and in otherwise acceptable conditions.
  2. Until such time as the refugees are repatriated to Burma, for the Government of Bangladesh to establish adequate refugee camps, and to ensure that the refugees enjoy food and nutritional security, healthcare and primary education and other basic needs. International and bilateral donor agencies, UN agencies and NGOs should provide financial and other support in this regard. However, care should be taken in the selection of sites for refugee camps so that this is not harmful to the interests of the concerned local communities (indigenous Doingnak inhabitants of a village in Cox’s Bazar district have recently protested against selection of one such site in their locality).
  3. For the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that no activities related to armed violence by organizations, groups or individuals from among the “Rohingya” community living in Bangladesh takes place (including recruitment, training, fund-raising, promotion, publicity and propaganda, and communication), whether within Bangladesh or in Burma.
  4. For the Government of Bangladesh, including the Police and other security forces, to ensure security of life, limb and property, of indigenous peoples and Buddhists living in, or visiting, different parts of the country (particularly those employed in export-oriented industries in Chittagong, Narayanganj and Dhaka districts).
  5. For the governmental and private press and media, political parties, religious or spiritual leaders, educational and research institutions, and civil society, to resist efforts to falsely portray the conflict in Rakhine State, Burma, as a conflict between Muslim and Buddhist communities.
  6. For the Government of Bangladesh to take severe punitive action against individuals, institutions and organizations that partake in inciting hatred and violence (which is a punishable crime) on the “Rohingya” issue, including through conferences, meetings, gatherings, press and media, publications, propaganda and the internet (including Facebook).
  7. For the Government of Bangladesh to take appropriate measures, including by providing adequate facilities in refugee camps in the frontier area, and by monitoring the same, to prevent these refugees from migrating into different parts of the country, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

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