The Washington Post reports: Wednesday marks the two-month anniversary of attacks in Burma, carried out by a small band of Rohingya militants, that triggered a massive and indiscriminate retaliation from the Burmese military and the exodus of most of the Muslim minority ethnic group from the country.
Some 604,000 people, mostly Rohingya, have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25, where they have joined more than 300,000 who fled in earlier waves of ethnic violence over the past three decades. With thousands still crossing the border each day, the total number of Rohingya refugees is expected to cross the 1 million mark in the coming days or weeks.
Roughly half a million Rohingya are thought to still be in Burma, where many live in camps for displaced people. Human rights organizations have documented the wholesale incineration of Rohingya villages across three townships (akin to counties) of Burma’s Rakhine State, where the majority of Rohingya once lived. In interviews in Bangladesh refugee camps and over the phone while still in Burma, Rohingya have offered searing testimony of extensive crimes against humanity carried out by the Burmese military. [Continue reading…]
Quartz reports: Each time the Rohingya flee Myanmar’s western Rakhine state—and there have been numerous such flights in recent years—Bangladesh, one of the world’s most congested countries, has to figure out how to best support them on its limited land.
There are temporary camps in the country’s southeasternmost areas, Nayapara and Kutupalong, set up in the 1990s and now housing about 30,000 registered residents, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations’s refugee agency. But these are longtime Bangladesh residents—the majority of them were born in the country or came as children. Newer arrivals have set up temporary shelters, and the situation is unsustainable.
Plans to build a giant new camp have been announced, while one proposal floated publicly two years ago has surfaced again—resettle people on a brand-new island in the Bay of Bengal. In late September, the country said that if repatriation moved too slowly, it would take steps to move people there. Called Thengar Char, the island Bangladesh is considering using has appeared only recently as Himalayan sediments carried to the sea by the Meghna River collected and settled, forming a land mass. Bangladesh calls these newly surfaced land accretions char (pdf, p4)—and some of them are so new that even identifying them on a map can be difficult. [Continue reading…]