Bangladesh seals off border with Myanmar amid fresh influx of refugees

Dhaka | Bangladesh has sealed off its border with Myanmar to stop further influx of refugees fleeing the troubled Rakhine state, Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen has said and claimed that the country’s military is now targeting the majority Buddhists and Hindus after cracking down on minority Rohingya Muslims.

Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have taken refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing from Rakhine state in neighbouring Myanmar to evade atrocities, which the UN called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, following the action by the military in August 2017.

Momen said the earlier attacks were against Muslims, but now the Buddhists and other ethnic groups are also being targeted.

“This is funny. Earlier, the attacks were against Muslims, but now the Buddhists and other ethnic groups are also being targeted.

“Myanmar says violence between Rakhine Army and Myanmar Army [two insurgents groups] is forcing people from different ethnic religious groups Buddhist and Hindu to try come to Bangladesh to save themselves, he said.

“We will not accept anybody. We have more or less sealed off the border”, he added.

“We can’t take any more of them (Myanmar refugees). The border with Myanmar is almost sealed off,” he told reporters before departing for New Delhi.

Momen is visiting India on his maiden overseas tour since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formed the government for the third consecutive terms after winning the December 30 general elections.

He said that Bangladesh has opened its border and allowed enough of the influx of refugees opening the border “now it is better if others (other countries) open their frontiers for them (refugees)”.

Meanwhile, paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) said they sent a detachment to enforce a vigil in its remote frontiers with Myanmar in bordering Bandndarban’s Ruma area.

Police said about 150 Myanmar nationals, including 38 Buddhist families, crossed the border.

“We have sent a detachment to Ruma frontiers to enforce a stringent vigil against fresh influx. The borders with Myanmar remained sealed off while only legal movement is underway through the Ukhia and Teknaf frontiers,” BGB’s region commander Brigadier General Ainul Morshed Khan said.

Police chief of the bordering Bandarban district Mohammad Kamruzzaman said 38, mostly Buddhist, families sneaked into Bangladesh overnight in view of the “internal conflict” in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Reports suggest fighting between the Myanmar military and the rebel Arakan Army forced hundreds to flee their home to take refuge in Bangladesh and India.

Acknowledging the report, the foreign minister said, “We have heard that different ethnic and religious groups including Buddhists and Hindus, this time apart from (Rohingya) Muslims, are trying to enter Bangladesh amid fresh violence in Myanmar.”

Earlier in the day, Momen met with special UN envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener and Hollywood superstar and a special UNHCR envoy Angelina Jolie who was two days in Bangladesh’s southeastern Cox’s Bazar where over a million Rohingya Muslims have been taking refuge after fleeing a brutal military crackdown at their homeland.

The 43-year-old Hollywood actor arrived here yesterday and visited a refugee camp in Teknaf near the Myanmar border.

Momen said he told the UN envoy that Bangladesh was upset seeing that instead of mounting pressures, some big countries still kept “all kinds of bilateral relations including trade with Myanmar”.

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