Mohibullah, a Rohingya Muslim, came to Bangladesh in 2016 along with more than a million Rohingyas, who are the citizens of our neighbour Myanmar. On humanitarian ground, Bangladesh government provided shelter to these Rohingyas once they were forced by the Myanmar military to leave their own land. They have been staying in different camps in Cox’s Bazar district. However, a small portion of these Rohingyas were shifted to Bhasan Char.
Nobody knew Mohibullah before 2019 when he started to speak about the interest of the Rohingyas, particularly their repatriation to Myanmar with safety and dignity. His leadership quality attracted most of the Rohingyas here. He not only became undisputed leader of the Rohingyas, but was also acceptable to many countries and agencies for his very positive role for the Rohingya community. He was also invited by the US Congress and met the US President.
Rohingya politician and activist Mohibullah was gun down at his office at Kutupalong camp on 29 September 2021. We were shocked once we came to know about the incident. Above all, it is our responsibility to provide them security once we gave them shelter in our country. Is not it a failure from our part? Maybe we are not serious enough to provide them necessary security. Otherwise, how such an incidenthas happened at a camp which is very much situated on our territory? Obviously, the security system of those camps comes to question. Can our authority deny their responsibility in maintaining security of these camps? Can anybody assure that similar or more serious and violent incidents will not happenin future?
After a few days of the incident, our Home Minister has said that illegal firearms were being smuggled to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar from Myanmar, aiming to destroy the peaceful situation existing there. If they knew it, what were the measures taken? On Mohibullah’s killing, the Minister said that he (M) was vocal for the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar. He added that barbed wire and watch towers would be set up around and inside the camp areas, though law and order situation there is good. He also assured that proper investigation is going on to find the organization behind this heinous crime and the criminals would be brought to book. And by this time, 4/5 persons have been arrested by the police in this connection.
We know that division and inter-factional strife among the Rohingyas in these camps are on the rise. Gang groups are growing. Drug trafficking, organized crimes including crime against women become a routine matter. Even, conflicts between the Rohingyas and the local community are happening. Our concerned authorities are well aware of all these facts. There are reports that activities inside the camps are changed after the sun set, when those camps go under possession of different factions.
It is already known to everyone that drugs are entering Bangladesh from Myanmar through various sources, including the Rohingyas. Now, if our Home Minister’s information is genuine, then arms are also entering Bangladesh from Myanmar. This is something serious for our own security. Even, there are reports that craftsmen, who hide in the mountains close to Myanmar border during day time, are making weapons for various Rohingya groups. These weapons might reach to our people. It means, there are transactions of huge money. One should not be surprised to know that some Rohingyas are also involved in spying, robbery and murdering for money. Undoubtedly, it is a serious concern not for Rohingyas only, but for us also. Nobody knows whether any Myanmar intelligence agent operates anti-Bangladesh activities in the guise of Rohingya.
Day before yesterday, Bangladesh Foreign Minister has also told the media that the government would not tolerate such activities anymore. Bangladesh law enforcing agencies would go to shoot if there is any incident of drug trading, arms smuggling or any subversive and illegal activities at the border area. In fact, Bangladesh had always been sympathetic to the Rohingyas who were forced to enter Bangladesh leaving their own homes in Myanmar. We should not consider any more the humanitarian causeif any Rohingya is found engaged in such activities like arms smuggling, drug trading, etc. Any way, we cannot let these things continue that will put our country under threat. Our country’s security should be given top priority. It will also keep the Rohingyas safe.
On humanitarian ground, Bangladesh had to give them shelter and till now looking after their welfare with the cooperation of the world community. We have been trying our best for their safe repatriation to Myanmar since signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between these two countries in November 2017. But the progress is zero. Two weeks back, Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at the United Nations General Assembly also raised the issue. She has clearly said that the repatriation of Rohingyas needs active cooperation from the world community. Myanmar must be convinced to agree in taking back its Rohingya nationals from Bangladesh.
In view of the on-going situation in the camps as well as the probable scenario in the coming days, the best option is to start the repatriation process immediately. Truly speaking, we have no time to wait. Otherwise, the entire area might one day turn into a burning oven of terrorist activities. Hope, our authority also understands that concern and would do the needful so that no more Mohibullah becomes target of the killers coming from whichever country. And repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar is the only solution to all those problems.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary