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EXTRA 49/92 - Bangladesh / Myanmar: fear of refoulement: Burmese Muslim refugees in Bangladesh

, Índice: ASA 13/005/1992

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 13/05/92
Distr: UA/SC
EXTRA 49/92 Fear of Refoulement 14 May 1992
BANGLADESH/MYANMAR: Burmese Muslim refugees in Bangladesh
Amnesty International is deeply concerned at announcements made by the Government
of Bangladesh that on 15 May 1992 it intends to begin the repatriation of some of
the 250,000 Burmese Muslim refugees, sometimes known as Rohingyas, who have fled
to Bangladesh from the Rakhine (Arakan) State of Myanmar. Amnesty International
believes that refugees who are returned to Myanmar risk becoming victims of grave
human rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial execution.
Over 100 refugees from the Rakhine State were interviewed by Amnesty International
during February and March 1992. They all said they had fled from their homes in
the Maungdaw and Buthidaung township areas of the Rakhine State to escape a wide
range of human rights violations at the hands of the Myanmar security forces, including
ill-treatment, deliberate killings, and arrests on religious and political grounds.
Many of these human rights violations occurred in the context of forced portering,
after Myanmar soldiers had forced Muslims to carry loads of ammunition or food or
to work on road and building projects for periods varying from a few days to several
months. These human rights violations are part of a general pattern of repression
by the Myanmar security forces against Muslims in the Rakhine State. Troops have
entered Muslim villages, occupied and closed mosques, confiscated farmers' livestock
and crops, seized villagers for forced labour, and evicted them from their houses.
According to recent press reports, 1,500 Muslim refugees were continuing to flee
to Bangladesh from Myanmar each day, indicating that this pattern of human rights
violations against the Muslim minority continues.
Reports of human rights abuses against Muslims in the Rakhine State by Myanmar security
forces rose sharply in early 1991, and they began to leave Myanmar in the thousands
to seek asylum in neighbouring Bangladesh. Those numbers increased dramatically
in late 1991 and early 1992, with some 250,000 now believed to be in Bangladesh.
Over half of these refugees are in 12 government-sponsored refugee camps, and the
rest are scattered throughout the border area. The United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as Western and Bangladeshi non-governmental
organizations, have access to the camps and have been providing aid to the refugees
together with the Bangladesh Government.
On 28 April 1992 the Bangladesh Government and the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC), Myanmar's ruling military authority, signed a bilateral agreement
to repatriate all the refugees over a six month period beginning three weeks from
the date of the agreement. Reportedly at the SLORC's insistence, the UNHCR will
not be involved in the resettlement process, although the two governments have agreed
to seek UNHCR's help if needed.
The agreement also reportedly stated that no refugee would be forced to return to
Myanmar, and the Bangladesh authorities have given assurances, which Amnesty
International has welcomed, that it will not forcibly return any refugees.
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However, the agreement does not provide any mechanisms to ensure that repatriation
is voluntary, to assess the situation in Myanmar, or to monitor refugees' safety
upon their return. The agreement further states that the SLORC will take all necessary
measures to halt the exodus of refugees and encourage those who have already left
to return voluntarily and safely. However, Burmese Muslims continue to flee to
Bangladesh in large numbers, and there are no grounds to believe that conditions
in the Rakhine State have yet improved for the Muslim population.
The two governments signed another bilateral agreement on 7 May which sets out the
means by which the refugees would actually be repatriated. It says that 5,000 refugees
will be returned to Myanmar every other day from ten transit camps located on
Bangladesh's southeast border with Myanmar. Burmese immigration officials will
receive the returning refugees at five border camps and provide them with a few days'
rations before their return home. The Bangladesh Government has reportedly submitted
almost 200,000 names of refugees to the SLORC to assist them in receiving refugees.
Amnesty International believes that until a mechanism is in place which guarantees
that the decision to return to Myanmar is genuinely voluntary, and until the SLORC
can conclusively demonstrate that human rights conditions in the Rakhine State have
improved, and that all returned refugees will be effectively protected from further
violations, no refugee should be returned.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telexes/faxes immediately:
- welcoming the assurances given by Government of Bangladesh that no refugees will
be forced to return to Myanmar against their will;
- expressing concern at reports that the Government of Bangladesh is to begin the
repatriation of Burmese Muslim refugees on 15 May 1992, despite the fact that Burmese
Muslims continue to flee from Myanmar;
- urging that the Government of Bangladesh postpone the repatriation of Muslim refugees
until a mechanism is in place which includes the full participation of UNHCR and
will ensure that refugees who return have made a genuinely voluntary decision to
do so;
- urging that in addition, no refugee be returned to Myanmar until the Myanmar
authorities can conclusively demonstrate that human rights conditions in the Rakhine
State have improved, and that all returned refugees will be effectively protected
from further violations.
A S M Mustafizur Rahman
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Topkhana Road
Faxes: + 880 2 833 597 or + 880 2 411 281
Telexes: 642200 PAMA BJ or 64222 PAMA BJ
Salutation: Dear Minister
diplomatic representatives of Bangladesh in your country

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