Why are hundreds of Rohingyas returning to Arakan?

aylan r

February 21, 2017

In the last few days, more than a thousand Rohingyas have returned to Arakan state.

There are different reasons for this. All recent refugees left in a hurry to escape the brutal crackdown in the Maungdaw North region. But they had left their houses, some left their arable land. They did not intend to stay in Bangladesh for long anyway. The desperate humanitarian situation in Bangladesh and the lack of humanitarian aid in the first few days convinced many that the host country might not be a good option without making long term plans.

Many well off Rohingyas were forced to survive like beggars as they had left all their possessions behind.

However by conducting interviews with people on the ground, the overwhelming number of Rohingyas say they are leaving Bangladesh only on a temporary basis to collect their relatives. After they have managed to make long term plans, they will slip back to Bangladesh at the earliest possible chance.

They say that at one point of the violence, the Tatmadaw was killing each and every male Rohingya in their sight. Those they did not kill, were taken away to an undisclosed location and never heard of again. Gruesome accounts of torture in custody convinced many that being taken away was a fate worse than death.

Under such circumstances, for male Rohingyas, the realistic option was to hide in the wilderness, which was risky as soldiers poured all over the area, or immediately escape to Bangladesh.

But this time, escaping to Bangladesh was also a risky affair, as security forces lined up on the border and shot at many trying to cross the river Naaf (see picture). Considering the total scenario, it was not always possible to take the women and children. So it was decided back then that the male would go to Bangladesh and wait for the violence to abate, before slipping back to fetch their relatives.

The Rohingyas also say that violence would once again flare up in Arakan and remaining in the country does not appear to be an option.

More than a thousand people are estimated to have been killed in the latest crackdown. Security forces have scaled down their presence in the last few days making it possible for the Rohingyas to go back from Bangladesh.