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The Human Rights Watch Group has been working with Dhaka, a global human rights group, in an effort to convince Bangladesh to take in more Myanmar Refugees. Dhaka is urging Bangladesh to keep its borders open to the refugees of Myanmar, who are seeking refuge from the violence going on in western Myanmar. Additionally, according to the Associated Press, “New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Bangladesh should also allow independent humanitarian agencies free and unfettered access to the border areas.”
Both groups got involved after word got out that Bangladesh turned away approximately 1,000 Muslims that came over in three boats. By doing this, “Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee Programme director at Human Rights Watch. Frelick also added, “Bangladesh has an obligation under international law to keep its border open to people fleeing threats to their lives and provide them protection.”
The violence is Myanmar has escalated between minority Muslims (known as Rohingyas) and Buddhists. As the tension grows between the two religious groups, hundreds of homes have been burned in Myanmar.
While Frelick believes it is Bangladesh’s duty to help these refugees, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni of Myanmar disagrees. At a news conference in the country’s capital, Dhaka, he stated, “it was not in Bangladesh’s interest to accept any refugees because the impoverished country’s resources already are strained.”
Buddhists are outraged about the Rohingyas living in Myanmar, claiming that the Royingyas are illegal immigrants and should be denied citizenship. Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, “Bangladesh says Rohingya have been living in Myanmar for centuries and should be recognized there as citizens.”
Not knowing where to go or turn, Rohingyas are turning to Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese opposition politician and General Secretary of the National League for Democracy in Burma, to help end their persecution.
According to the Sunday Times Newspaper in Sri Lanka, “Bangladesh, which shares a 200-km (125-mile) border with Myanmar, is home to an estimated 300,000 Rohingya refugees, about a tenth of whom live in squalid conditions in UN-assisted camps.”
Mohammad Islam, leader of Rohingya refugees living in Nayapara camp in the Bangladesh border town of Teknaf, stated, “in her [Suu Kyi] first visit outside Myanmar in 24 years, Suu Kyi last month met thousands of Myanmar refugees now living in a Thai border camp. She promised to try as much as she could to help them return home, vowing not to forget them.” Islam added, “we heard the relations between the government and Suu Kyi have mended and there are now reforms sweeping the country. But for Rohingya, these changes mean nothing.”
Still Suu Kyi is hopeful and has no plans of giving up on the refugees.
“I would like to do my best for the interests of the people,” she said.