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Bangladesh will again close its border with Myanmar, blocking Rohingya refugees

Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar are
“infiltrating” Bangladesh, says Bangladesh’s Minister of Foreign
Affairs.


November 8, 2013 13

Bangladesh has decided to close its border
with Myanmar to prevent the passage of the country’s Rohingya Muslims who are
seeking refuge from persecution by majority Buddhists, the Dhaka Tribune
reported 
Friday.
Bangladesh’s
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dipu Moni, made the declaration to the House of
the Nation—the country’s supreme legislative body—on Thursday, saying that the
“infiltration” had put pressure on Bangladesh, and so the government would take
legal actions against any “illegal infiltrators and those giving them shelter.”
“Given
the recent unstable situation in the Rakhine state, the foreign ministry has
adopted measures to immediately seal off the Myanmar border to stop the
infiltration of the Myanmar nationals for national interests,” Moni told
parliament.
She
said the government had already made locals along the border aware of the
situation, and given law enforcement agencies instructions on taking legal
action against those who do not comply.
Moni rationalized the decision by saying that Saudi Arabia—where
approximately 2.5 million Bangladeshis work—“and the other Muslim countries”
are sympathetic to the plight of the persecuted Muslims.
The
move has come at the start of what the United Nations last week called the
“annual and often deadly exodus” of people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state— a
period of migration that typically begins in November when the seas become
calm.
According to Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 1,500
people have fled
the inter-national violence in Myanmar in the last
two weeks.
This
weekend a boat carrying 70 Rohingyas sank off Myanmar’s western coast. Only
eight survivors have been found.
Images of stateless Rohingya Muslims are currently on
display at the Washington DC Holocaust Memorial Museum
, being
projected onto its outside walls, in hopes of spotlighting the tragedy.
Myanmar
has called the exhibit “inappropriate,” but the photographer, Greg Constantine,
says the work is necessary.
“It’s
disturbing that at a time when there are so many conversations on the perceived
amazing developments in Burma, this tragedy has been overshadowed by
everybody’s interest on what’s been happening elsewhere in the country with
democratic reforms,” Constantine said.
Human
rights groups have condemned the sectarian violence between ethnic Rakhine
Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, which has killed some 240 people and forced
hundreds of thousands to flee, throughout Myanmar’s ongoing democratic reforms.
Ironically, Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Myanmar and often seen as
illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar wait in a line in Teknaf after their boat was intercepted while trying to cross the Naf river into Bangladesh to escape sectarian violence on June 18, 2012. Just over a year ago, the Bangladesh/Burma border was closed, and Bangladesh was coming under increasing international pressure to open its border to Rohingya.
MUNIR UZ ZAMAN AFP/Getty Images