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Rohingya Hindu refugees in Bangladesh want to return to Myanmar: US daily

Agency | January 10, 2019 11:25 AM

LOS ANGELES: Rohingya Hindus who sought refuge in Bangladesh want to return to Myanmar but were not being allowed by Bangladesh officials, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a report from the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Bangladesh, the newspaper said on Wednesday that 105 Hindu families were ready to leave when a deal was made by the UN last May for refugees to return home to Rakhine state in Myanmar.

But they are stranded in Bangladesh because their return home was canceled when the UN decided it was not safe for refugees to go back to Myanmar, Hindu refugees were quoted as telling the newspaper.

The 400 Hindu refugees in Bangladesh are segregated and housed in a separate facility called Hindu Camp, which is under round-the-clock securit.

Hindu and Muslim refugees in Bangladesh live in a state mutual animosity.

The Los Angeles Times said that Hindu families have appealed to the Indian government for help, but have so far received only humanitarian aid.

"India is a land for all Hindus. Mr. (Narendra) Modi (Prime Minister) is a Hindu. Why is he not helping us?" the newspaper quoted Shishu Sheel, a 32-year-old leader in the refugee camp for Hindus, as saying.

The Hindus were victims of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Muslim organisation led by the Pakistan-born Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, and fled to Bangladesh as it was the only escape available to them, the newspaper said.

Unlike the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees, the Hindus have Myanmar citizenship, the newspaper said.

The newspaper said that Bangladesh's Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission has ruled out repatriating only the Hindus, and not the Muslims, whose return the UN has determined was unsafe.

"We treat all refugees the same way and will not be prioritising repatriation of the Hindu refugees over Rohingya Muslims," Shamimul Huq Pavel, the commission official who oversees a separate camp for Hindu, told the Los Angeles Times.

The exodus of the Rohingya to Bangladesh began in August 2017 when the ARSA attacked security posts in Myanmar and the security forces and vigilantes retaliated killing hundreds of Muslims and destroying their villages.

The UN has condemned the security forces' response to the ARSA attacks as disproportionate and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called it "ethnic cleansing".

However, the Hindus were attacked by ARSA unlike the Muslim refugees who were victims of security forces and Myanmarese vigilantes, the newspaper said.

Amnesty International, that verified the the ARSA attacks, said in a report last May that 99 Hindu children, women and men had been killed.

The rights organisation said that in one incident in August 2017, 53 Hindus from Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik village were rounded up and killed execution-style by the ARSA and later the remains of 45 victims were found in mass graves.

In neighbouring Ye Bauk Kyar village, 46 Hindus disappeared and the community believe that they were killed by ARSA, Amnesty said.

Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International, said: "It's hard to ignore the sheer brutality of ARSA's actions, which have left an indelible impression on the survivors we've spoken to. Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar's security forces in Rakhine."

The Hindus blame the Muslims for the August attack and for opposing the repatriation plans, while the Muslims allege that Hindu families that stayed behind in Myanmar took their property and livestock, according to the newspaper.

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