People of Rakhine Community: Their numbers shrinking in Teknaf
Ma Ching Rakhine, along with her family members, was forced to leave their ancestral home in Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar around 10 years ago in the face of threats from Rohingya criminals.
With a Rohingya refugee camp set up on their ancestral land in Dadundagya Rakhine Para, they are now living a tough life in Chowdhury Para Beri Badh area of Teknaf. They live in houses made of plastic sheets with no proper toilet facilities. They do not have safe drinking water either.
Four other Rakhine families, who once lived in Dadundagya Rakhine Para, locally known as Domdomia Rakhine Para, are also with them in Beri Badh area.
Ma Ching alleged that they had to leave their ancestral home after receiving threats on their lives from Rohingya criminals.
"A refugee camp was set up in Domdomia Rakhine Para [in 2017] for Rohingys who fled Myanmar for fear of persecution," said Maung Tunhla Rakhine, secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Forum's Cox's Bazar unit.
Rakhine families in Rochai Rakhine Para, locally known as Naya Rakhaine Para, in Teknaf's Nhila area alleged that they also had to give up their ancestral land due to oppression and land-grabbing by local influential people and threats from Rohingya criminals.
There is now a Rohingya refugee camp in Naya Rakhaine Para, said Maung Tunhla.
Maung Ting Aung, who relocated to Chowdhury Para in 2001, said he along with his family left Naya Para after receiving threats from Rohingya criminals.
The victim Rakhine people said they have no hopes of returning to their ancestral land as the authorities concerned are yet to take any action against the criminals and influential people who intimidated them.
Citing statistics from a book titled Rakhinadorsho authored by Mongsen Ching, Maung Thunhla said there were a total of 113 Rakhine paras in Cox's Bazar with 11,641 families. But the numbers have now come down to only 23 and 2,558 respectively.
The Rakhine population in Cox's Bazar has decreased significantly due to oppression and land grabbing by local influential people, said Maung Than Hla, president of The Rakhine Buddhist Welfare Association.
The population of the community in Cox's Bazar was around 70,000 only 20 years ago, but now the number has dropped to about 30,000, he added.
Prof Robaet Ferdous of Dhaka University's mass communication and journalism department said most of the Rakhine community people left the country over the years due to insecurity.
"Criminals first attack the houses of Rakhine people, then their business outlets and prayer houses. If they fail to evict Rakhine people from their land, they rape their girls," said Robaet.
"This is nothing but a process of exterminating the entire indigenous population in our country."
He expressed fear that the number of Rakhine people in the country might drop to "zero" in future.
Asked about the eviction of Rakhine people, Cox's Bazar Additional Deputy Commissioner (general) Zahid Iqbal said, "I joined Cox's Bazar office last month. I am not aware of the allegation that local Rakhine community members are leaving their ancestral home in the face of threats from Rohingya criminals. I have to check whether there are any official complaint regarding eviction of Rakhine people and grabbing of their land."