And, why should we worry about Cox’s Bazar?
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah announced yesterday that the kingdom will send $50 million to help Muslims in Burma in an obvious PR move. However, we have other reports, including one new one from a Bangladeshi newspaper that says once again that Saudi Arabia has imprisoned hundreds of Rohingya in Jeddah. So, what is the truth?
Here is Reuters on the King’s gift:
(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered $50 million in aid be sent to a Muslim minority in Myanmar which a human rights group said has been targeted by the authorities since sectarian riots in June.
A report on the Saudi state news agency said the Rohingya community had been “exposed to many violations of human rights including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement”.
“King Abdullah … has ordered that assistance of the amount of $50 million be provided to the Rohingya Muslim citizens in Myanmar,” said the report which was carried by Saudi media on Sunday. It did not say who was to blame for the abuses.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Saudis will pow-wow tomorrow no doubt on how to keep the story going of the Rohingya Muslim “victims.”
Myanmar, where at least 800,000 Rohingyas are not recognised as one of the country’s many ethnic and religious groups, has said it exercised “maximum restraint” in quelling the riots.
Saudi Arabia sees itself as a guardian of global Muslim interests thanks to being the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the religion’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina. However, Riyadh also regularly draws criticism from campaigners for its lack of democracy.
Last week the Saudi cabinet condemned the violence against Muslims in northwest Myanmar and at a meeting on July 31, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the kingdom’s second city of Jeddah urged members to send Rohingya Muslims aid.
The OIC is holding a summit in Mecca on Tuesday.
Now here is the other side of the story from a Dhaka news outlet—Rohingya getting illegal Bangladeshi passports and then getting into Saudi Arabia where many are arrested.
From The Daily Star:
The intrusion of Rohingyas from Myanmar and their overseas travel on fake Bangladeshi passports are big headaches for the authorities.
Once abroad, they commit different kinds of crime, thus tarnishing the image of Bangladesh. The problem has been unchallenged for long.
In June, these issues again came to the fore as several hundred Rohingyas fled sectarian violence in Myanmar and into Bangladesh through the bordering area of Cox’s Bazar.
The government high-ups have also expressed their concern about the problem and asked the authorities concerned to be on a state of alert.
Rohingya caused problems in Saudi Arabia?
Last month, the foreign ministry asked the deputy commissioners, especially of Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban, to take steps to ensure that no Rohingya got a Bangladeshi passport.
“Earlier, many Rohingyas had managed voter IDs and Bangladeshi passports. They went abroad and created huge problems in Saudi Arabia. So we have asked the local administration for a double-check,” Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes told journalists on July 11.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested around 700 Rohingyas, who already made their way to the country with Bangladeshi documents, and kept them in a deportation centre in Jeddah, according to officials.
The Saudis are now pressing Bangladesh to take them back.
This trend of Rohingyas going abroad is also threatening the country’s labour market overseas.
Beware Cox’s Bazar:
There are around 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees at two camps in Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar.
But roughly about half a million Rohingyas unofficially live in Cox’s Bazar and other areas of the Chittagong region.
Interestingly, one of the earliest posts in our Rohingya Reports category is this one from 2008 about Islamic terrorist groups gathering support from Rohingya refugees at Cox’s Bazar. Here is a 2006 report from the Hudson Institute on the subject. Note that even Time Magazine is linked with an even earlier story about recruitment in refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar. (emphasis below is mine)
In addition to minority flight, there have been other factors augmenting the relative power of the Islamists. Since 1991, perhaps as many as 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have entered Bangladesh across its southeastern border with Myanmar (Burma), a Jamaat-e-Islami stronghold. Many reside between the port city of Cox’s Bazaar and the Myanmar border. Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, the Islami Chatra League, have worked to radicalize these refugees, who are probably more susceptible to religious indoctrination after their persecution in Myanmar. Indeed, according to reports by human rights groups on local minorities, many of Harakat ul-Jihad Islami’s newest members are recruited from the Rohingya settlements.
And here is Time in 2002!
Today, southern Bangladesh has become a haven for hundreds of jihadis on the lam. They find natural allies in Muslim guerrillas from India hiding out across the border, and in Muslim Rohingyas, tens of thousands of whom fled the ethnic and religious suppression of the Burmese military junta in the late 1970s and 1980s. Many Rohingyas are long-term refugees, but some are trained to cause trouble back home in camps tolerated by a succession of Bangladeshi governments. The original facilities date back to 1975, making them Asia’s oldest jihadi training camps. And one former Burmese guerrilla who visits the camps regularly describes three near Ukhia, south of the town of Cox’s Bazar, as able to accommodate a force of 2,500 between them.
So, I guess the Saudis don’t want any Muslim riff-raff in the Kingdom, but by throwing some money in the Rohingya direction they can guilt-trip the Burmese government and bash some Buddhists. And, maybe an extra added bonus will be to further make naive Western human rights groups clamor even more for the resettlement of Rohingya refugees to your town.