Death of a baby as un­wanted Ro­hingya hunt for a home

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Alam’s short life ended yes­ter­day in a dark, tat­tered tent in Bangladesh, the Ro­hingya child’s skele­tal body suc­cumb­ing to ill­ness con­tracted while flee­ing Myan­mar where his state­less peo­ple are un­der at­tack. He was six-months-old.

Alam died hours af­ter ar­riv­ing at a makeshift refugee camp close to Tek­naf, the gate­way to Cox’s Bazar, a poor, densely pop­u­lated coastal area al­ready home to more than 230,000 Ro­hingya refugees.

But for the Ro­hingya, Bangladesh is far from a promised land. So far lit­tle or no aid has been pro­vided for the new ar­rivals, with Bangladeshi au­thor­i­ties fear­ing food, medicine and shel­ter will en­cour­age more to cross the border. With her child’s ema­ci­ated body by her side, 22-year-old Nur Begum de­scribes how a Myan­mar army raid that killed her hus­band and two other chil­dren forced her to flee Rakhine State for Bangladesh with the tiny Alam.

Af­ter three-week trip with lit­tle food, Begum and her in­creas­ingly sick child made it to the camp in Leda, across the Bangladeshi border. But Alam’s jour­ney was at an end.

“I fi­nally had some food in the camp and thought I would be able to feed him,” his dis­traught mother told AFP. “But he left me be­fore I had the chance.” Her baby was buried yes­ter­day, his body washed and then car­ried to a Ro­hingya grave­yard on a wooded hill near the camp. Up to 30,000 Ro­hingya have aban­doned their homes in Myan­mar since early Oc­to­ber, af­ter sol­diers poured into the strip of land in western Rakhine state fol­low­ing deadly raids on border posts.

The refugees who have reached Cox’s Bazar so far have brought with them hor­ri­fy­ing sto­ries of gang rape and mur­der. The Myan­mar army flatly de­nies the al­le­ga­tions. That Myan­mar does not want its more than one mil­lion Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion is not in dis­pute. It re­fuses them cit­i­zen­ship while many in the ma­jor­ity Bud­dhist coun­try call the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity “Ben­galis”-short­hand for il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Poor­est of the poor

Bangladesh pro­vides a mixed re­cep­tion to the Ro­hingya. Although peo­ple around Cox’s Bazar have cen­turies-long his­tor­i­cal ties with the Ro­hingya, lo­cals in­creas­ingly per­ceive the refugees as a crime-prone nui­sance. Only 32,000 Ro­hingya are for­mally reg­is­tered as refugees. The re­main­ing 200,000 scratch an ex­is­tence with­out help from govern­ment or char­i­ties.

And their num­bers swell with ev­ery cri­sis across the border in Myan­mar. To avoid more ar­rivals Dhaka has blocked refugee boats from land­ing and called for Myan­mar to stop the ex­o­dus. — AFP

Myan­mar Ro­hingya mi­grant Nur Begum re­acts af­ter the death of her six-month-old son Alam in a refugee camp in Tek­naf, in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, yes­ter­day. — AFP

Myan­mar Ro­hingya refugees wash the body of six-month-old Alam be­fore his burial in a refugee camp in Tek­naf, in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district yes­ter­day. — AFP

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