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After Fleeing Genocide, Over Half a Million Rohingya Refugees Now Face Monsoon Season in Bangladesh

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Aid agencies are scrambling to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from crowded camps in Bangladesh ahead of the monsoon season in June. Hundreds of thousands of registered Rohingya refugees now live in the Cox’s Bazar district in southeastern Bangladesh, after fleeing a Burmese military campaign of rape, murder and arson that the U.N. has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Now the United Nations high commissioner for refugees says at least 150,000 people are at “high risk from mudslides and floods” from the heavy rain in the next few months. Some could be moved to a recently formed island at the mouth of the Meghna River. This comes as more refugees are still crossing over from Burma. We are joined in our New York studio by Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and a member of the Free Rohingya Coalition. He was born in Burma, but in 1982 he was rendered effectively stateless, along with a million other ethnic Rohingya, under a nationality law.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end today’s show looking at how aid agencies are scrambling to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from crowded camps in Bangladesh ahead of the monsoon season in June. More than a million registered Rohingya refugees now live in southeastern Bangladesh, after they fled in 2017 amid a Burmese military campaign of rape, murder and arson that the U.N. has called a, quote, “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Now the United Nations high commissioner for refugees says at least 150,000 people are at, quote, “high risk from mudslides and floods” from the heavy rain in the next few months. Some could be moved to a recently formed island at the mouth of the Meghna River. This comes as more refugees are still crossing over from Burma.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined in our New York studio by Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, a member of the Free Rohingya Coalition, born in Burma, but in 1982 he was rendered effectively stateless, along with a million other ethnic Rohingya, under a new nationality law.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!

TUN KHIN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: You were just in the area. You’ve just returned. Tell us what you saw and your deep concerns about the moving of the Rohingya in Bangladesh, who have fled what many are calling genocide in Burma.

TUN KHIN: Yes. These are victims of genocide. You know, they fled because they’re facing serious mass atrocities in their homeland. That’s why they fled. What I have seen, there is, you know, many Rohingyas—women are not getting proper medical aid. At least 30,000 Rohingya women are pregnant. There are some rape victims there, raped women also, you know, at least 25,000 unaccompanied children there.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you’re talking about Cox’s Bazar, where you were—

TUN KHIN: Yeah, it’s the Kutupalong and Balukhali.

AMY GOODMAN: —home to the most densely populated refugee camp in the world?

TUN KHIN: Yes, yes. So, the challenge in here is now coming after a few weeks, when heavy rain comes up. Half-million population will—their lives will be in danger because of flood and because of heavy rain. That is what’s happened normally in that area. So, it is very important international community must focus on that to protect these people, because I worry there will be next another natural disaster these Rohingya people will face. Last year, they faced a man-made disaster, what we have seen as a genocide, completely, completely. Their atrocities against Rohingya has been going on for many year; that’s been last stage of genocide, I should say. You know, yeah.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, can you talk about what plans are in place to relocate the Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar?

TUN KHIN: As far as what I learned from international NGOs, they’re trying to relocate. They’ve mapped up the—some places, and they’re trying to relocate some Rohingyas. But we still do not know when and how they will do that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what about the question of repatriation? Have any of the Rohingyas returned to Burma?

TUN KHIN: For me, there is—it cannot be happening, repatriation, because the Burmese military and government systematically, you know, driven them out from their homeland. So they created—the Burmese military and government created impossible situation for the Rohingyas. You know, when I was there last, three weeks ago, the people are still fleeing from Burma to Bangladesh. And last two days ago, I received five families fled. Every day, Rohingya families are fleeing. At least one week, 10 to 15 families are fleeing, because Burmese military and government is arresting many Rohingyas with false allegation, threatening them: “We do not want to see you in this country.” That’s why.

AMY GOODMAN: Tun Khin, the U.N. Security Council is going to Bangladesh this weekend. What do you want to come out of this visit?

TUN KHIN: Firstly, as I met also the victims, they told me they want to see justice, before they return. They want to see these perpetrators where their children been burned alive, where their daughters been raped in front of them, where their sons been slaughtered in front of them—they want justice. They want to see these perpetrators in International Criminal Court. So, this is important we bring them International Criminal Court, firstly.

Secondly, when we talk about repatriation, we want to return our homeland. That’s what refugees told me. But they want protection. That’s why we’re calling here protected return to protected homeland in Myanmar. So, that international protection is needed. In Burma, as a whole country—you know, USDP party, NLD party, military, security forces, Buddhist monk—they do not want to see Rohingya as citizens. They’re saying illegal immigrants. So, any time mass atrocity we will face again; before this happen, protection is needed when you return these refugees.

AMY GOODMAN: Tun Khin, we want to thank you for being with us.

TUN KHIN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.

And this breaking news: President Trump’s nominee to head the VA, Dr. Ronny Jackson, has withdrawn from consideration.

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