Despite govt restriction, Rohingya settlement in Lama, threatening to locals

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Hill Voice, 6 August 2023, Special Correspondent: The infiltration of Rohingya in Chittagong Hill Tracts continues despite the prohibition of government and various officials of administration including the Prime Minister. In many cases, the Rohingyas have been infiltrating and settling in various areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts with the cooperation and shelter of the administration and vested quarters. Not only that, they are threatening and harassing Jumma people as well as permanent residents, and getting involved in land grabbing of Jummas. Besides, they are being included in electoral rolls by collecting national identity cards and creating a security threat in the entire hilly area by smuggling various narcotics including yaba.

Lately, it has been reported that some 30 Rohingya families got settled in Sarai union of Lama upazila in Bandarban district. Moreover, there is allegation that these Rohingyas are threatening the local Jummas to kill and beating them.

Of late, local residents including local and regional media sources have confirmed the settlement of outsider Rohingya refugees in Lulaing Bengali Bazaar area of Sarai Union in Lama.

President of Lulaingmukh Buddhist temple Chinglok Mro (70) has said that at least 30 families of Rohingya refugees came from Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in Ukhiya of Cox’s Bazar and settled in Lulaing Bengali Bazaar area in Lama. It caused a threat to public safety in nearby areas including Lulaing area. He added, ‘The Rohingyas often tell the local Jummas that if they react much about their settlement, they (Rohingya) will kill them (Jummas) and run away. No one will find them. They have nothing to lose.’

Chinwai Mro, a grocer in Lulaing Bazaar, said, ‘Since the influx of the Rohingyas, the local people have become almost jobless. Because they do daily work for very less wage (300/350). In the increase of commodity prices, the locals will not be able to make a living with so less wage. The labor market is now almost in the possession of the Rohingyas.’

Menwai Mro, a member of No.9 Ward of Sarai Union, said, ‘It is the influential people who are bringing the Rohingyas here. We are helpless because of them. Meanwhile, the Rohingyas have encroached the lands of some Mro villagers. The local influencers use the Rohingyas as a tool for their interests.’

On July 27, 2023, an online media called coxview.com and a report published in the daily Purbakon newspaper said, ‘Many Rohingyas are possessing national identity card (ID card). One such is Tarek Hossain. Everyone in the area knows him as Rohingya. But he got national identity card from Panchlaish area from Chittagong City Corporation. Locals said that because it is very strict to be voter in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban, the Rohingyas are going to Chittagong, Noakhali and other districts to become voters and then transferring to Lama.’

Quoting the locals, the two media also said, ‘Rohingyas have become involved in drug and arms trading in the hills. A couple of years ago, a person named Barmaiya Abul Hussain was arrested by the army with weapons from Lulaing Meraitta area. Besides, Hamid Hossain, Barmaiya Tarek and Ali Ahmed collected money from local people on behalf of some terrorist organizations. Four years ago, a Rohingya killed his mother by slitting her throat in Sarai Amtali area. The police have not yet arrested the accused of that murder. If this flow of Rohingyas is not stopped, the hill will become unsafe.’

Regarding the settlement of Rohingyas, Lama Police Officer-in-Charge (OC) Shamim Sheikh said, ‘Many Rohingyas have already been arrested and sent to refugee camps by Lama police station. Measures will be taken talking with the upazila administration.’ In this regard Lama Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md. Mostafa Javed Kaiser said, ‘The matter is worrying. Actions will be taken to remove the Rohingyas from the remote hills after discussing with the district administration.’

Government’s ban declaration:

On October 8, 2017, in the district law and order committee meeting held at the district commissioner’s office in Bandarban, superintendent of Police Sanjit Kumar Roy said, ‘Not even a single Rohingya will be kept in Chittagong Hill Tracts. There is a government decision to this regard.’

Then on December 6, 2017, the then Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Kamal Uddin Talukdar said, ‘Considering the delicate environment and socio-economic conditions of the three hill districts (Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari) the Bangladesh government has decided not to make Rohingya settlements there.’ Later on March 12, 2018, CHT Affairs Minister Bir Bahadur Ushweching said, ‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has restricted settling the Rohingyas in Chittagong Hill Tracts and has ordered all Rohingya refugees to be taken to Cox’s Bazar.’ Later in early of 2019, the CHT affairs minister Bir Bahadur Ushweching announced that no Rohingya refugees could live in the three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Notably, in neighboring Myanmar’s Rakhine province, after the violent incident on August 25, 2017, a massive influx of Rohingya people began in Cox’s Bazar district adjacent to the Chittagong Hill Tracts. According to the biometric registration of the Department of Immigration and Passports, the number of Rohingyas entering Bangladesh is 11 lakh 18 thousand 576. They were accommodated in 34 camps of Ukhia and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar.

Continued Rohingya infiltration and crimes:

The government and administration have announced that the Rohingyas will not be able to enter or settle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. But despite this, the infiltration of the Rohingyas into the Chittagong Hill Tracts has not stopped since the beginning. It is the actual fact. The recent news of the settlement of 30 Rohingya families in Sarai Union of Lama is clear evidence of that. Earlier there was evidence of Rohingyas’ infiltrating into the Chittagong Hill Tracts, registering as voters having national identity card, involving in Jummas land grabbing and harassing, and trafficking drugs.

Here are some instances-

On May 9, 2021, the army detained 45 Rohingyas while infiltrating into the Bandarban hill district. The detained Rohingyas were trying to enter Alikadam and Thanchi upazilas of Bandarban by truck in search of work as labourers. However, they were detained at two army checkposts and handed over to Alikadam police station under Bandarban Hill District. Later, however, the Rohingyas detained from the army check posts were reportedly sent to the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.

On September 28, 2020, a Bengali version report titled ‘Rohingyas in Bandarban are easily possessing national identity cards’ by Hill Voice said, ‘The exact number is not known, how many of them have got national identity cards. But to prevent the Rohingyas, the government has strict regulations in making national identity cards. Although it is unbelievable that despite all these, the national identity card of Bangladesh is getting into the hands of the Rohingyas.’ It has also been said, ‘Ghumdhum Union Parishad Chairman Jahangir Aziz said that there are still 400 to 500 Rohingya voters in Ghumdhum Union. The local syndicate is making the Rohingyas citizens of Bangladesh by exchange of money. The syndicate includes- data collectors, verifiers, identifiers and even public representatives.’

In 2020, there were allegations of massive influx of Rohingya refugees in Bandarban even during the lockdown due to the Corona pandemic. At that time, in Bandarban District’s Naikyongchari, Lama, Alikadam and Sadar upazilas, Rohingyas were accused of being involved in various crimes including theft and robbery, abduction, rape, murder, drug trafficking, land grabbing and provoking of communal tension.

In 2018, Chak people were forced to leave Satgharjya village due to harassment and threats of Rohingya robbers. It is known that 15 families of the Chak community were evicted from their own ancestral lands in Badujhiri of Naikhyongchari a few years ago due to threats and harassment by land grabbers and Rohingya dacoits.

In May 2015, there were allegations of Rohingya involvement in the killing of a Buddhist monk named U Dhamma Wang Cha. At least 20 Marma and Tanchangya villagers are alleged to have been killed by Rohingya armed groups in the Naikhyongchari area alone in the last 5/6 years.

On April 9, 2022, there is allegation that Rohingyas were used in the incident of attempt to expropriating about 400 acres of land and plantations of three Jumma villages, attacking with sticks and sharp weapons, felling hundreds of threes in Sarai union of Lama Upazila by rubber company. Besides, there are reports of killing and injuring Jummas in gun fight among different groups of Rohingya militants and in their planted detonated mines at various times.

It is noteworthy that earlier a total of 120 Rohingya families were found in 7 upazilas of Rangamati district. Among the families- 15 families in Rangamati municipality, 72 families in Kaukhali upazila, 11 families in Kaptai upazila, 13 families in Bilaichari upazila, 3 families in Rajsthali upazila, 5 families in Longadu upazila and 1 family in Barkal upazila.

On the other, there are reports of residing 56 Rohingya families in different upazilas of Khagrachari district. Among them 30 families in Manikchari upazila, 15 families in Mahalchari upazila, 5 families in Guimara upazila and 2 families each in Ramgarh, Dighinala and Khagrachari sadar upazila.

It is learnt that since 1979, at least 50,000 Rohingyas are said to have settled in Bandarban district alone.