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Militant Islamic groups using camps as base for drug and human trafficking and illegal weapons trade

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Mohib Ullah spoke strongly to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2019 on the violations, killings, displacement suffered by the Rohingya people at the hands of the Burma military. He was assassinated on September 29. (Photo: karennews.org)

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A report in Human Rights Watch has warned, “Bangladeshi authorities and UN officials should take urgent measures to protect Rohingya refugees facing threats and violence in the Cox’s Bazar camps. Rohingya community leaders and volunteer workers told Human Rights Watch that members of armed Islamist groups were increasingly targeting them for extortion and other crimes.”

Last month, unidentified gunmen shot and killed, chair of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar. According to Human Rights Watch, armed Islamists in the Cox Bazar refugee camp had threatened Ullah, yet the Bangladeshi authorities were not responsive.

“Mohib Ullah’s flight from mass atrocities in Myanmar to then be killed in his place of refuge speaks volumes about the risks that Rohingya activists face every day,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Bangladesh authorities should take urgent measures, with international assistance, to protect Rohingya activists who are defending the rights of refugees.”

Shipan Kumer Basu, who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee, stated in an exclusive interview: “At the end of August 2017, more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state took refuge in various places in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, which is surrounded by beaches. Later, in the interest of the country’s security, hundreds of camps were set up there and they were kept within the camp-based boundaries.”

According to Basu, Mohib Ullah met with former US President Donald Trump that same year as the representative of the Rohingya, but he was recently killed, an act that was condemned by the UN High Commission for Refugees and various countries across the globe.

“Domestic and foreign militant groups are gradually spreading in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar,” he noted. “With their help, several illegal weapons training centers have been set up.  Towards the end of September 2021, a confidential report from a reliable source revealed that a number of militant groups were operating in Rohingya refugee camps. Under the guise of these organizations, they are carrying out various activities including drug trafficking, the trafficking of women and children; the illegal weapons trade and illegal sexual activity.”

However, Basu noted that the Sheikh Hasina government has refrained from arresting anyone inside the Rohingya refugee camps for performing any of these illegal activities: “For the past few years, people from the general and minority communities of the country have been the victims of unknown attacks. But the government has not been able to clarify what happened during these attacks and who stood behind them.  If the situation continues like this, there will be no minorities left in Bangladesh and the general public will be held hostage, like in Afghanistan. Thus, Bangladesh will transform into a sanctuary for militants.”

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“Pakistan-backed militant activities and training in illegal weapons were taking place in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh,” said Prasanna Kumar Roy in an exclusive interview.

The prominent industrialist from West Bengal, India and a financial advisor to the World Hindu Struggle Committee continued: “In my opinion, the government of Bangladesh is fully aware of this and the government of that country is maintaining silence to prevent the spread of deliberate militant activities. As a result, the number of militants has increased in different parts of Bangladesh and the country’s minorities are often attacked by militants.”

According to him, the effects of this will be felt far and wide in the region. “The increase in militancy in Rohingya camps will not only affect the minorities of Bangladesh, but also the people of border districts of India. Because, militants have a huge network and they are always in touch with every militant state. So their state can be attacked anywhere in the world. Pakistan is one of the militant’s donor countries. The militants should never believe that they will not hesitate to attack their heavenly kingdom Pakistan. So I think all the peace loving countries of the world should unite and make this region militant free.”

In conclusion, Basu asserted that like Pakistan (where recently the US intelligence reported that 12 terror organizations are very much active), “Bangladesh will soon become a haven for terrorism and terrorist activities if the Sheikh Hasina government keeps on supporting Rohingya extremists covertly.  So, there is an immediate and urgent need for the international community to focus on what is going on in Bangladesh.”

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”  

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