What is the future for Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugees?

China is putting pressure on Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya, but will the Rohingya be treated the same way as China’s Uyghurs???

Since 2020 I have been working online as a Human Rights Advocate for the nearly one million Rohingya Muslims housed in the Bangladesh Refugee Camps at Coxes Bazar. The site is made up of several camps, the largest being the registered camp of Kutupalong. Since the 2017 coup in Myanmar the complex has grown with many smaller camps and the area is now collectively known as the Kutupalong–Balukhali refugee camps.

Myanmar, or what used to be known as Burma, is largely a Buddhist country which has endured decades of repressive military rule, extreme poverty and ethnic cleansing, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people from minority groups being displaced, many are now living in Bangladesh refugee camps.

The geographical site of the camps is extremely hazardous. It is subject to coastal winds, cyclones, inundation, floods and landslides, these events have already cost many lives, including those of small children, some of whom have been buried alive under shifting earth.  The living conditions are appalling, large families are crammed into the very small shelters, many of which are along steep and unstable slopes.  There is no proper sanitation, open sewage runs in between shelters and when it rains it seeps into the bamboo and tarpaulin structures. The camp is set in a regional landscape with natural beauty, much of which is now polluted with waste and contaminants from the camps.  It may be a little-known fact, but refugee camps are an ecological disaster and they are growing in size.

The camp with its barbed wire fences and gun towers is effectively a high security prison.  No one gets beyond the wire without permission.  Alliance Sans France attempt to run a small primary care hospital, but there are never enough supplies to meet the demand. Education in the camp is almost non-existent.  Teachers who attempt to set up small schools for children are immediately shut down. Some classes have been known to take place in candlelight and they last for a few weeks before they are disbanded. There are more children in the camps than there are adults and they have no future.

Food supplies are inadequate causing many refugees to be suffering from malnutrition, this was made worse this year when the World Food Program cut the already meagre rations of food by 17%. There is very little drinking water, refugees are forced to risk their lives by slipping under the fence to beg for clean water from nearby residents.

The camps are plagued by corruption and the infiltration of terrorists from Myanmar’s revolutionary armies. Assaults, shootings, rapes and abductions happen almost daily. Refugees live in fear for their lives and little hope of ever getting resettlement. Only 1% of refugees get resettlement in a third country, as a result some refugees have been in the camps for over thirty years. Added to this, there has been little support from the international community for fear of offending the major powers who have significant investments in Myanmar and the region.

Refugees in the camps are hungry, people are sick and people are dying from fatigue and despair.   These are people who have lost everything, yet they are treated like outcasts and criminals.   Bangladesh never wanted the influx of refugees.  At the time of the coup in 2017 the Bangladesh Government tried to turn the refugees back, but it is against international law to return refugees to the place of persecution. Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, but it is careful to maintain a good reputation for the sake of its economy. Bangladesh has one of the world’s fastest growing economies and it is building massive new business and infrastructure projects with assistance from China and Saudi Arabia. The country could assimilate the refugees as many of the Rohingya speak the Bangla language and are familiar with the culture, but instead Bangladesh has created an apartheid system under the watch of the United Nations, the International Organisation for Migrations and its western allies.

Today, the Rohingya refugees are more unwanted than ever before because China is putting pressure on Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve the refugee problem which is impacting Chinese investments.  China sits behind the current plans to repatriate the Rohingya back to Myanmar, not to a life of freedom, but into another camp overseen by the Myanmar junta. Refugees have been told the camp is temporary, but all refugee camps are deemed temporary, including China’s re-education camps that currently house the Uyghurs.

The Bangladesh Government has been gradually shifting refugees to an offshore island in the Bay of Bengal.   To date, 30,000 Rohingya refugees have been relocated to the sinking silt Island of Bhasan Char with little or no contact to the outside world. The shift has been condemned by almost all the refugee agencies.  Most of the refugees were seemingly coerced into going to the island with the promise of better conditions, but those promises have not come to fruition. Attempts to shift the rest of the refugees out of Bangladesh are now focused on the repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar, where they have no rights to citizenship or services and where the Rohingya are still being subjected to an ongoing regime of persecution (genocide).

Bangladesh signed an agreement with Myanmar on repatriation in November 2017, shortly after they were driven out of Myanmar.  The agreement was brokered by China.  Now the question arises as to why China is suddenly putting more pressure on Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya?  Myanmar at the behest of China, needs to build its economy.  The repatriation will likely relocate the focus away from Myanmar’s military government and its human rights abuses and it will boost the workforce in respect of China’s investments.   The chances of the Rohingya reaping any benefits from this arrangement are minimal. Indeed, they could end up in the same situation as the Uyghurs, that is being reprogrammed to meet China’s cultural and economic agenda.


News from Bangladesh.

Suma, who killed Maheshkhali’s child Mifta in Chakaria, was arrested by RAB. RAB press release. RAB-15 arrested the main accused in the case of brutally torturing and killing a child domestic worker at Chakria in Cox’s Bazar and leaving the dead body in a deep freezer. Recently on May 10, 2023, Suma Akhter, wife of Kamal Harun, a resident of Chakria, Cox’s Bazar, brutally tortured Miftah Mani (10), the housekeeper of her house. Domestic worker Miftah Mani dies due to brutal torture. After the murder, Suma Akhtar kept the body in a deep freezer with the help of her husband. Cleverly, the maid’s family was informed that the maid had died of diarrhoea. Later the house owner Harun and his wife Suma escaped after sending the body of the housekeeper to Maheshkhali by ambulance. Eyewitnesses and family members of the deceased informed the Chakaria police station after finding numerous injury marks on the dead body and signs that the dead body was kept in the fridge after death. In this regard, Md. Syed Noor, the father of domestic worker Miftah Mani, filed a murder case at Chakria Police Station of Cox’s Bazar, whose case is No. 34/215, Date: 16/05/2023, Section-302/201/34, Penal Code. Ever since the incident was known, there was a sensation in the whole of Bangladesh including Cox’s Bazar. After receiving the information about the crime, RAB-15 started intelligence activities to arrest the accused and continued the raiding activities of RAB. When RAB tried to trace the location of the accused through various means, the accused kept changing their location repeatedly to avoid arrest. On the basis of reliable intelligence information, today 27th May 2023 around 03.30 hours, RAB-15, a smart raiding team of Cox’s Bazar, from Muhuripara area of ​​Jhelongja Union under Sadar Thana of Cox’s Bazar, the main accused in the related incident, Suma Akhter (32), husband-Kamal Harun, Sang- Hajianpara, Ward No. 03, Kakara Union,Thana-Chakaria and District-Cox’s Bazar were able to arrest.Arrested Suma Akhtar confesses his involvement in the incident. The arrested accused has been handed over to Chakaria police station of Cox’s Bazar district for taking necessary legal action

What is the furture for Myanmar and the Rohingya.



What would it take to restore peace to Myanmar?  It’s a taxing question because Myanmar, much like another global flash point Taiwan, could trigger a serious world war.

To predict any kind of future for Myanmar we have to look to China and its influence, not just in Myanmar, but across the region.

Half a century ago China was an economic basket-case, but after a long period of economic stagnation today China is second only to the United States and its on tract to take over the leadership. We are living in times when China is a formidable power and it is looking to increase its interests.

Myanmar is crucial to China.  Since 1989 the Chinese have supplied Myanmar with military equipment, which includes jet fighters, armoured vehicles and training for the Burmese Army. China’s ambitions extend beyond the Bay of Bengal to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.

The Myanmar military and its location are a significant investment in China’s ambitions. Access to Myanmar’s ports is essential to China’s future and the current junta is happily serving China’s interests. Indeed, since the coup China has prioritised its economic investment in Myanmar. This includes a $2.5 billion gas fired power plant that will be 80%   owned and operated by the Chinese.  Added to this China has promised to build dams, a high- speed rail and a deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu. This would enable China’s access to the Indian Ocean and well beyond.

China’s plans are to reduce its dependence on other countries such as Australia and the Middle East.  As for Myanmar, China is increasing its relationship with the junta while as the same time creating a massive debt-trap for the Myanmar people.

Numerous commentators suggest that China is planning for a war, whereby Myanmar and its new infrastructures would be crucial to China’s strategic position in the region.

Many refugees dream of returning to their Myanmar home, but the truth is the junta are not going to welcome them or provide them with any legal rights.  The Chinese are more likely to imprison returning refugees because the majority of them are Muslims.

As of 2022 China was reported to have imprisoned 1.8 million Muslims in secret internment camps in China, most of the prisoners appear to be Uyghurs, but also included are Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic Turkic Muslims. Some Christians and some foreign citizens including Kazakhstanis, have also been imprisoned.  With the Chinese in control of Myanmar, there is little hope for the safety of Muslims.

The world condemns the Myanmar junta for its ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people, but even a conviction in the International criminal court is not going to alter the geo-politics as it is currently being played out. Myanmar lives with arms embargoes from the several nations, but these countries are allegedly still doing business in Myanmar.

Accountability for the atrocities and protection of refugees is unlikely to be high on China’s agenda and therefore given little credence from the Myanmar government, now or later.

A new Myanmar is invariably going to be Chinese dominated. I can’t see this being a safe haven for Muslims or Christians.

An essay by a Bangladesh Refugee.


Life as a Refugee in Bangladesh.

I am Hasmat Ullah,  a long-term survivor of the Rohingya refugee crisis. In the light of the International Declaration of Human Rights, I am telling my story and the tragic life of the Rohingya refugees who are forced to reside in the hostile Bangladesh refugee camps, many of whom have been there since 1992.

I am a Rohingya refugee and postgraduate in Law.  Due to my relentless quest to become educated I have suffered in countless ways.  I and my family currently face barriers just because I am a Rohingya refugee and postgraduate scholar from another community. My persecution has been ongoing since 1992. I have twice been headlined in local newspapers: “Rohingya Boy is studying here in primary education and entrance examination”. Following this headline in 2006, the school authority acted against me and revoked my admission. I faced constant discrimination from the local people who attempted to create a barrier to my continued schooling.   In school, my classmates always made fun of me. It was horrible.  Despite all hostilities, I have not given up my quest to succeed, but I face the continued mental and physical danger that confronts all refugees who attempt to better their future.

Due to the discrimination I shifted from my first school to another and continued my study until I passed the examination of matriculation in 2013. To continue my further studies, I went to Chittagong to take a course on Computer Skill Development for one month. When the authority of the school discovered I was a Rohingya boy, I was arrested. They came for me in the middle of the night, this happened on 12 December 2013. The authorities kept me in their custody under Sitakunda Thana of the Chittagong District the whole night, with nothing to eat or drink. The next day, I was sent to the Chittagong Central Jail.  I was in prison for 3 long months.  I was tortured in unspeakable ways. What they did to me was really disgusting.  When my family were informed about my custody, they called the UNHCR for help.  After 3 months I finally got bail.  Due to the three months delay I was dropped from the admission deadline of the college for one year.  I got my admission in the following year 2014.  In 2016 I completed my Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examination.  My family could not afford to bear the cost of my study, so in order to continue   I was appointed as house tutor in the residential areas where I had been living while I was studying. I have not been deterred from my quest; I am a hard-working Rohingya student with strong willingness to continue my learning at any cost.  After overcoming many barriers and obstructions I completed my bachelor degree and hope to complete a Masters.

I wish to emphasis that my attempts to become highly educated, especially in law have put me and my family in grave danger.  My attempts to publish critiques of the Government’s policies and, in particular, the refugee system have led to many challenges that include racial and intellectual discrimination.  I am banned from attending important political and scholarly events and both I and my family have received death threats. Despite these threats I am driven to making known the shocking and inhumane treatment that continues to plague  the Rohingya people.

My family left Myanmar in 1992, but my story is only a small incident in a long running genocide against the Rohingya people. We have been fleeing the violence and killing for more than thirty years and are now among the most persecuted people in the world with almost a million Rohingya residing in the Bangladesh refugee camps. 

My family left Myanmar in 1992 to be obviated from the oppression and torture carried out by Myanmar’s illegal junta. The main reason behind leaving Myanmar was that one of my elder brothers was brutally murdered by the Myanmar regime. According to my parents, my brother was shot dead at the age of four months.  The murder was part of a terrorist campaign against my family because my father used to teach the Muslim religion in our small hamlet. My family left Myanmar and took shelter in the Nayapara Registered Camp under Teknaf Thana, in Cox’s Bazar District under the division of Chittagong in Bangladesh. The name of the region Teknaf comes from the Naf River which forms the eastern boundary and it shares a border with Myanmar.  My parents now live in the Kutupalong Registered Refugees Camp under Ukhiya Thana, which is also in Cox’s Bazar District. 

I was born in the refugees camp and I have been fortunate in gaining a higher education. The Rohingya are greatly restricted from accessing provisional education beyond class five and private education is strictly banned.  According to a document issued by the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh in 2021 learning can only take place under very strict guidelines:

“Teaching of anything related to the Bangladesh culture must be prohibited in the learning centres including how to draw the national flag of Bangladesh, how to write and speak Bangla and most importantly the national culture of Bangladesh.”  All rhymes, storybooks and poems must be published in the Burmese language.”

As a result of the excessive restrictions, it is very difficult for the Rohingya to access higher education, indeed, the Bangladesh government consider it a crime to become an educated Rohingya person.  Notwithstanding, by hiding all of my identifications I have completed my primary, secondary and higher education as a Rohingya refugee.  Nonetheless, there is no way of building a career based on my qualifications, there is therefore no security. As  Rohingya we are still made to feel inferior. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to write about the oppression I have both experienced and witnessed in the refugee camps in Bangladesh.

In the South Asia sub-continent, the Rohingya are known as an uncivilized community.   The Myanmar government does not recognize the Rohingya’s right to citizenship so we have been marginalized, denied education and any freedom of movement.  We have had no voice, no ability to speak out or to seek our right to freedom and it has been like this for decades.  Further, Bangladesh is perceived as supporting this oppressive view, this is to say, the Rohingya should be socially, economically and spiritually constrained and segregated in the camps and not permitted to mingle with the Bangladesh population. This situation has led to a loss of dignity and the immense deprivation of almost one million people who are punished daily for simply being Rohingya. The Rohingya living in the camps are faced with continual brutality and humiliation, which is a gross violation of their human rights. Myanmar’s brutal regime completely diminished the Rohingya’s rights to access higher education and our ability to survive and instituted an indiscriminate regime of genocide.

The Rohingya were a free and independent nation from 1430 till 1784. For an estimated 350 years, the Arakan (the current Rakhine state in Myanmar) was a free land.  All we have now is a few memorable days kept aside for the next generation so the painful events of war and dispossession are not forgotten. We remember them jointly on days such as 28th December (Black Day), 25th August (Genocide Remembrance Day), and 4th January (National Independence Day).  We celebrate these days by jointly organizing peaceful meetings and demonstrations in the camp, but the local authority obstruct us from carrying out our celebrations. When we raise our voice we are arrested and sent to detention centres (jail).  We have no rights to appeal, we have no rights at all.   Each of the tenants of Human Rights Charter and those of International Law are put aside because we are not considered worthy of protection.

The refugee camps are not places of sanctuary; they are prisons. The Rohingya residential areas are encased with barbed wire, there is no freedom of movement and no escape.  The buildings are dangerous and volatile. When the flimsy bamboo shelters catch fire, there is no way to avoid the fire, the Rohingya are trapped and some die in ongoing disasters.  In short, we Rohingya are treated like caged birds. We have no right to life, liberty or security, we are beholden to the whims and abuses of the host government, including the alleged persecution of the individual Rohingyas who stand up for justice and the spreading of fake news that is designed to destroy the reputation of our entire community.   

Our movements are curtailed by the armed peacekeeping forces. Many refugees have alleged that the armed peacekeeping forces inside the camp, incite lawlessness with the over-use of securitization towards the Rohingya refugees. This appears to be true.  Allow me to give you an example.  When a Rohingya chooses to go to the market to buy essential goods for making meals they must cross the check point of Armed Police Batallion (APBn).    This inspection includes the checking of personal items such as smartphones and wallets.  If refugees have money in their wallets, it is alleged that the authorities  look for ways to embezzle the money. Refugees allege that they constantly have money stolen by the authorities.

In the evening, after 6:00 pm, the authorities forcibly claim money for the crossing of the check point. Inside the camp after 6: 30 pm (BDT: Local time) going from one hut to another is totally banned This curfew is strongly enforced.  If anyone is caught outside their shelter beyond the specified time, he or she is badly beaten by the peacekeeping forces.  These beatings are frequent and people are often sent to the jail where time allows for the wounds to heal so public scrutiny is largely diminished.   In the name of peace keeping these authorities are allegedly creating lawlessness inside the refugee camp in order to present the Rohingya people as primitive, uncivilized and lawless. To this end, the genocide of the Rohingya people is continued, fastidiously and covertly inside the camp.

For the refugee, life often seems hopeless. All human beings need to be able to work in order to have a sense of fulfillment.  There is little opportunity to work for a wage in the camp and the few who do work are grossly exploited. Wages do not cover the cost of food and other necessary items.  The only means of feeding oneself and a family is the Rohingya Food Distribution Card. In accordance with this card and its associated rules, the supply of food is so limited that there is not enough food to sustain a healthy life for anyone. As a result, due to the low nutritive supply of food, all Rohingya refugees more or less suffer from various kinds of incurable disorders such as malnutrition and people are susceptible (and die from) many curable diseases.

Food distribution centers hand out food once a month, either at the beginning of the month or during the last week of the month, based on their choice.  The following food items are distributed: rice, sugar, oil, pulse, potatoes, cabbage and sometimes dry fish. People can only get food using the Food Distribution Card.  No card, no food!  Many families go for days without food and they are forced to beg or borrow.  Added to this, the frequency and amount of food distributed is not sufficient for a big family.   Clean drinking water is also in short supply. In the summer months this becomes a crisis in clean water distribution. In the rainy season water is easily contaminated with water borne diseases and much of the camp is severely flooded and prone to landslides.

Similarly, clothing is insufficient for the temperatures. We have to purchase our own clothing or rely on charities and second-hand clothes. Sometimes, non- government organizations (NG0s distribute blankets in the winter and on very rare occasion second hand winter clothes.

All human beings need proper medical care at some time in their lives. The medical situation for refugees is untenable. Prenatal care for women is limited which leads to complications at birth.  According to the US National Library of Medicine and the National Centre for Biotechnology information Women and girls represented 52% of the over 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Between September 2017 and August 2018, 52 maternal deaths out of 82 pregnancy-related deaths occurred within these camps.

Serious conditions such as cancer are not treatable in the camp and referral to a major hospital is a lengthy and difficult process.  Medical staff are largely provided by the host community who are believed to be biased towards the Rohingya, hence many complaints of hostility are made by against staff, but they are not addressed by any form of independent judiciary. Medical facilities are grossly limited, beds are few and far between, which in turn opens the way preferential treatment and corruption. With this in mind, the Bangladesh government are alleged to be carrying out the same lack of neutrality as that perpetrated by the Myanmar government.

Clearly, the Bangladesh government want a fast solution to the refugee crisis, which is predicated on the return of the Rohingya to Myanmar. However, Myanmar is currently engaged in civil war and still carrying out a genocide against the Rohingya people.  Such a return would constitute refoulment, which is illegal under International Law.

Bangladesh did not shoulder the burden of refugees willingly and hostility towards the refugees has gown. Over time the deprivation of refugees in the camps has led to a number of social problem such as drugs, crime and human trafficking.  In addition. very few refugees have found resettlement in third nations because western countries have been unwilling to increase their intake of refugees who are Muslims.   Bangladesh is a Muslim country and those refugees who have been living in Bangladesh since 1992  have become almost the same as the Bengali people, both in language,  culture and in behaviour. The best solution for a vast majority of refugees would be the gradual assimilation of them into the Bangladesh community with the same rights and privileges as all other Bangladesh citizens.

For further details contact: hasmat.iiuc@gmail.com

Are you a refugee seeking resettlement?

UNHCR decide who will be resettled and where. However, if you wish to state your case in a letter, below is a template  you can use.  If you have problems with English I can correct your letter if you contact me via FB messenger. or my email, doctorchrisjames@gmail.com.  Please be aware that you might not get an answer to your letter, but every communication makes UNHCR aware of the urgency to resettle refugees.

A guide for writing a letter to UNHCR requesting resettlement

Address your letter to UNHCR, date it and send it to: P.O. Box 3474, 1000 Dhaka, Bangladesh;

Your letter should contain the following:

Your name.

Your date of birth.

Your country and village/city/town.

Your family members.

Ages of every one in your family.

The health status of everyone in your family.

Your refugee status.

Your document details. (Copies)

Your camp details.

Any special needs.

Any disability that prevents you from working.

Medical records.

Who in your family is available for work?

When you arrived in the camp.

Your occupation before leaving the homeland.

Any work carried out in the camp.

Your school/education record.

Age you left school, college university.

Your employment qualifications.

Your education (and any courses you have completed in the camp).

Tell the story of your escape from danger.  When? Where? How? Why?

Explain your life in the camp.

Explain why you think you should be given resettlement.

Detail any extenuating circumstances, i.e., poor health, medical needs,

your life is in danger.

What do you hope to achieve in another country?

Which country would you like to settle in (you may not get a choice).

UNHCH resettles on the basis of the most urgent needs of refugees.

What are your most urgent needs? Be aware that you may not get a reply.