Stranded in no man’s land
12:00 AM, August 30, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:46 PM, September 13, 2017

Stranded in no man’s land

Several thousand Rohingyas from Myanmar build makeshift shelters there

Several thousand Rohingyas from Myanmar, mostly women, children and elderly people, are waiting in no man's land along the Naikhyangchhari border to enter Bangladesh territory.

Though Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) remains active against trespassing, more than 10,000 Rohingyas have already managed to get into Bangladesh through several points of the 274km Bangladesh-Myanmar border of Cox's Bazar and Bandarban.

Violence erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine State on Friday triggering a fresh influx of refugees towards Bangladesh. 

Every day, the Myanmar military is conducting patrols by helicopter along the border. Sounds of gunshots came from the other side yesterday morning.

Some Rohingya people with bullet and burn injuries have been admitted to different hospitals in the last three days. They claim to be the victims of Myanmar military offensive.

Rohingya
A Rohingya man passes a child through a border fence near Maungdaw on the border with Bangladesh on August 28, 2017. Photo: AFP

“A total of seven bullet-hit patients have been admitted to our hospital in the last two days,” Dr Shahin Abdur Rahman Chowdhury, resident medical officer of Cox's Bazar Sadar Medical Hospital, told The Daily Star yesterday.

At least 11 others with bullet and burn injuries have come to Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

The local authorities are officially denying that already thousands of Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh since the outbreak of fresh conflicts in Myanmar. 

“People are coming to Bangladesh like floodwater. My estimation based on reports of different agencies is the number of newly arrived Rohingyas will be 20,000 to 25,000. But I cannot tell the media about it revealing my identity,” said a top official, talking to The Daily Star.

Sarowar Kamal, upazila nirbahi officer of Naikhyangchhari, Bandarban, claims that no Rohingya has entered Bangladesh territory and those who crossed the Myanmar border are still waiting in no man's land.

UNHCR in a statement yesterday said that a total of 5,200 people came to Bangladesh from Myanmar as of Sunday.

LIFE IN NO MAN'S LAND

Crossing the barbed-wire fence marking the Myanmar border, Rohingyas have put up a few hundred makeshift tents using polythene sheets and bamboos by the Tambru canal near Tambru Bazar in Ghumdhum, Naikhyangchhari.

A few refugees are allowed to cross the knee-deep canal to go to Tambru Bazar to buy supplies, including food and medicine, when needed. They have to return after the shopping.

They can collect drinking water from houses in Vajabunia and Tambru villages. 

Rohingyas try to enter Bangladesh from no man's land in Cox's Bazar as smoke rises in the background. There were reports of gunshots in the area. Some Rohingyas, Photo: AFP/Reuters/Anisur Rahman

Holding an infant in her arms, Ayesha Begum, a woman from Naichudeng village in Dekibunia of Myanmar, was seen crossing the canal. She was going to a physician at the marketplace as her baby was suffering from cold and fever.

Ayesha Begum said they had left their village two days ago for Bangladesh fearing persecution by Myanmar army.

Zahed Hossain, headmaster of Vajabunia Government Primary School, said at least five thousand people have taken shelter on the other side of the canal.

He reckons two to three thousand people already managed to go to different camps inside Bangladesh in the last two or three days.

“People made this temporary camp across more than one square kilometre area,” said Mohammed Hossain, a resident of Tambru village.

Some Rohingyas in no man's land near Jolpaitoli were seen with cattle brought from Myanmar. These correspondents found at least 50 cows at that point as hundreds of refugees were waiting to enter Bangladesh territory. 

Thousands of Rohingyas have made similar temporary shelters also in no man's land near some other remote areas including Chakdhala, Rizu Aamtali, Borochhankhola and Hatimora of Naikhyangchhari.

A local journalist who visited the areas told The Daily Star that many such tents have mushroomed in two rubber plantations and on some hill slopes of the upazila. 

Walk along the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf road on way to Ukhia of Cox's Bazar. Thousands of Rohingyas have been fleeing ongoing military operations in Myanmar's Rakhine State since Friday. The photos were taken in the last two days. Photo: AFP/Reuters/Anisur Rahman

NEW ARRIVAL IN CAMPS

Rohingyas arriving every day are being sheltered by their relatives in Kutupalong and Balukhali unregistered refugee camps.

Around five hundred of them came to the Kutupalong camp yesterday morning from several villages of Maungdaw in Rakhine State.  

Abul Hossain is from Gurkhali village of Maungdaw. He said almost all the people from Gurkhali, Mazarpara and Lemsi and Reika villages either arrived in Bangladesh or were trying to come.

If BGB men do not allow them in, they try some other points, he said when asked how they enter the country despite patrolling by border guards. There are reportedly many unguarded points on Bangladesh-Myanmar border.   

This correspondent found at least one hundred families waiting at the entrance to the Kutupalong and Balukhali camps yesterday. Some of them came empty-handed; some brought utensils and live chickens.

Local sources said Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) have set up a medical camp at Kutupalong to treat injured Rohingyas. But they were not allowing any journalist there.

Asked how many injured they have treated so far, Sazzad Hossain, communication officer of MSF, a humanitarian organisation, said they were not providing any medical information to journalists.

Meanwhile, BGB pushed back 51 Rohingya people to Myanmar on Monday night as they were trying to enter Bangladesh illegally.

The border guards imposed an embargo on fishing in the Naf River, which marks the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.  

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