The police authorities have placed a set of recommendations in order to prevent criminal activities in the Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas of Cox’s Bazar, including ensuring transparency in the selection process of Rohingya leaders in the camps.
In separate letters to the police headquarters in the capital and the Cox’s Bazar-based Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in last two months, the district police authorities also explained the real-time crises that occurred inside the camps.
They also explained why the recommendations were crucial for monitoring of the one million-plus ‘forcibly displaced Myanmar Nationals’ living in the 33 camps in Bangladesh territory.
The two main measures suggested in the letters were to put in place night-time vigilance and adoption of democratic practices in the camps to prevent crimes.
Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner Muhammad Abul Kalam confirmed that he received the letters and said that initiatives were underway to implement many of the measures proposed.
One letter sent on April 29 to the RRRC and the police headquarters said that the election or selection of Rohingya leaders should be done according to effective rules and regulations as Rohingyas were unwilling to obey instructions from leaders selected according to the existing procedures, resulting in deterioration of the law and order situation in the camps.
The police also found that the Rohingyas had no legitimate associations to place their reasonable demands and in absence of such bodies they were divided in different groups or sub-groups that tended to engage in criminal activities.
At this point, a police letter suggested, the Rohingyas may be allowed to develop associations and, if so, the risk of their joining terrorist groups will be lower.
Pointing out that innumerable mosque-based madrassahs were set up in the camps the police also recommended that they should not be run without proper ‘permission’.
The police also suggested that the RRRC should keep their officers in the camps during the night to help maintain the law and order.
For night-time patrolling, the police said that lamp posts and CCTV cameras should be set up in selected locations inside the camps.
It was mentioned in the letter that Rohingyas were collecting unauthorised SIM cards and, using them, were getting involved in various crimes.
‘At this stage, each eligible Rohingya can be permitted to avail one authorised SIM card against their ration or food card,’ added the letter.
The police letter further said that many Rohingyas, using 3G/4G networks, were inducing others to get involved in criminal activities, adding that the telecom operators might be asked to keep suspended the 3G/4G networks in the Rohingya-populated areas from 7:00pm to 6:00am daily to prevent such offences.
The letter reads that a few Rohingya criminals are committing crimes and then taking shelters on hills or at other camps but they are collecting their rations at the end of the month alright.
The police further recommended that their ration should be suspended in order to maintain law and order.
The police also suggested setting up police camps, watch towers and barbwire fences around the camps to prevent the movement of criminals between camps and adjacent hills after they committed crimes.
The police also said that some Rohingya criminals were crossing the international border to bring in drugs and got involved in smuggling.
The police recommended taking action in this regard in consultation with the authorities concerned.
The police also stated that a number of ‘illegal’ makeshift hats (marketplaces) were set up inside the camps and violence was taking place among multiple Rohingya groups over the control of the hats and extortion of money from those.
The police recommended shutting down the hats and called for formulating a specific policy on how to manage markets in the camps.
The police said that they received information that Rohingya gold traders were lending money at high interest rates against gold taken as pawn by other Rohingyas.
To this end, the police also recommended shutting down the responsible shops in the camps.
The letter also called for holding regular meetings among the agencies working in the Rohingya camps while it demanded additional allowances for their round-the-clock duty in the camps.
Against this backdrop, inspector general police Mohammad Jabed Patwary, Border Guard Bangladesh director general Major General Md Shafeenul Islam, and Rapid Action Battalion director general Benzir Ahmed and Special Branch chief Mir Shahidul Islam visited Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar and later held a meeting with security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the RRRC, among others, on July 9, officials said.
Cox’s Bazar police superintendent ABM Masud Hossain said that the law and order situation in the district was improving but they wanted more vigilance to maintain the order in coming days.
Approximately 7,23,000 Rohingyas have fled targeted violence and serious human rights violations in Myanmar since August 2017 to take shelter in Cox’s Bazar, along with the three lakh other Rohingyas already in camps there for decades.
So far, from August 2017 to June 2019, a total 353 criminal cases involving Rohingyas have been filed against 793 individuals.
The crimes involved possession of illegal arms and drugs, robbery, rapes, abduction, smuggling, theft, murder and human trafficking.
The highest number of cases filed, 128, were for possession of drugs while at least 33 murder cases have also been filed.