(Thet Aung via Getty Images)
“We don’t feel sorry that she [Aung San Suu Kyi] is overthrown from power now.” So said Rohingya community leader Mohammad Yunus Arman, as he stood in the sprawling Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Kutupalong is the world’s largest refugee camp, home to thousands of Rohingya living in deplorable conditions after fleeing from the murderous Myanmar military in 2017 — on the head of state’s watch. “She remained silent about it. She didn’t even utter the word ‘Rohingya.’ Once, we used to pray for her success and used to treat her like our queen. But after 2017, we realized her real character,” Arman said.
While condemning Monday’s military takeover of a democratically-elected government, at the same time Sayed Ullah, another Rohingya community leader at Thaingkhali camp, spoke about the dashed hopes that a civilian government would have changed the way the military historically ruled the predominantly Buddhist South Asian nation. “[Suu Kyi’s government] did nothing for us. They didn’t protest the genocide” of Rohingya, he said.
Both leaders were anticipating a safe return to their homeland, pursuant to a four-year-old bilateral agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh; the repeatedly-stalled repatriation process was supposed to start later this year. However, tired of the foot-dragging, and ignoring complaints from human rights groups, Bangladesh began relocating Rohingya refugees in late 2020 from neighboring Myanmar to the remote island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal.
So far around 4,000 refugees have been sent to the island, which surfaced 20 years ago and hadn’t previously been inhabited. The island was regularly submerged by monsoon rains, but today has flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals, and mosques built at a cost of over $112 million by the Bangladesh navy. Bhasan Char’s facilities are designed to accommodate 100,000 people, just a fraction of the million-plus Rohingya refugees currently living in crowded, squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Now that Myanmar’s civilian administration has been ousted, there are fears the new military government might not keep its agreement to repatriate more Rohingya. International relations experts agree, saying the coup removed the “facade of democracy” in the country, and the probability of bringing the refugees back has further diminished. (Al Jazeera)