December 8, 2017

On Monday, after an interval of a few weeks, once again a Rohingya village goes up in flames. This time, Mogh vigilantes set fire on a few houses in Kúaiccong, Maungdaw South. The fire set in the daylight hours did not cause casualties, but terror of a Mogh attack perpetuated the entire village. Many considered escaping over the adjoining border to Bangladesh, but locals were virtually prevented from going even outdoors by the Hlun Htein.

Since last Tuesday, Rohingyas have been prevented from fleeing to Bangladesh, as the government intends to show the international community their good intent, to ‘take back’ refugees from Bangladesh. So when a steady stream of terrified and malnourished continued to flow into Bangladesh even after the signing of the repatriation agreement between the two countries, it obviously raised some eyebrows – – if the government wants to take back Rohingyas, why the conditions which resulted in this exodus continue to exist forcing the Rohingyas to choose an uncertain future in the refugee camps of Bangladesh?

In the last ten days, the BGP often backed by Tatmadaw forces have maintained a heftier presence on the border, which included driving back stranded Rohingyas from the coast in Don Khali beach, many of whom have been living without food and fresh water, for weeks, looking for a chance to get enough for a boat to Bangladesh. Their job was got a lot harder, as the government, does not want them crossing to Bangladesh, at least not now.

On the other hand, Kuiccong is one of the few village tracts that did not take the brunt of a heavy offensive from the Tatmadaw this year. Most of the people are terrified, yet opting to stay in the village, choosing their ancestral home over the uncertainty that a refugee life entails, even though geography allowed them a better chance than hundreds of thousands who escaped from remote areas in Buthidaung and Rathedaung.

Activists from the Rohingya community are alleging the government backed Mogh vigilantes are giving a signal to the refugees in the camps of Bangladesh. The fire, easily visible from Bangladesh, including some areas of the Balu Khali refugee camp is a clear warning signal – – DON’T COME BACK.  Few Rohingyas want to go back, and the fire in this border village reinforces the message for the refugees. With a whiff of smoke, the government once again gives a sublime yet straightforward signal to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, it might seem to many, especially in the host nation of Bangladesh, that Rohingyas are in fault for not wanting to go back. Yet a closer look into the events such as the sudden smoke arising over the eastern horizon of Kuiccong, visible from Bangladesh gives an insight into a part of the strategy devised by the Tatmadaw to make sure none of the 600,000 Rohingya refugees are thinking of coming back. But among the mass atrocities that took place since August, sight of burning houses visible from even the Bangladesh border does not make news, except for those expected to return to Myanmar . Rohingya activists say that in the coming months, the Tatmadaw will employ many strategies including the tactical use of their Mogh vigilantes to make sure Rohingyas are not coming back from Bangladesh.