Protest in Rakhine state opposes Rohingya return

SITTWE • Protesters in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state demonstrated yesterday against the planned repatriation of Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, referring to them as “runaway refugees”.

About 100 people led by Buddhists monks marched through the state capital Sittwe holding red banners and chanting slogans.

“All the people of the nation are responsible to protect the security of the country,” one monk said, according to a Facebook “live” streaming of the protest.

“There will be no benefits to us or our country if we accept the Bengalis,” he added, using a derogatory term for the Rohingya that falsely implies they are newcomers from Bangladesh.

The demonstration came 10 days after Bangladesh and Myanmar were supposed to officially start repatriating members of the Rohingya minority who had fled violent military operations in August 2017.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh said Myanmar’s armed forces raped women, murdered their relatives and burned down their houses in a bid to drive them out of the country for good after decades of persecution.

The deal to bring them back was struck a year ago, but Rohingya in the camps fear returning without guarantees of citizenship, safety and equal access to healthcare and education.

But they also are wary of hostility from the non-Muslim residents in Rakhine, many of whom are not eager for the Rohingya to return. — AFP