[아시아엔=샤피쿨 바샤 <아시아엔> 방글라데시 지사장, 아시아기자협회 방글라데시 지부장] 방글라데시 남부 테크나프(Teknaf) 지방에 수백명의 ‘로힝야’족 난민들이 갈 곳 없이 헤매고 있다. 방글라데시 국경경비대(BGB)는 국경을 순찰하며 로힝야 난민들을 미얀마로 돌려보내고 있으나 밀려오는 난민들을 모두 막기에는 역부족이다.
방글라데시 내무부는 세계 최고 수준의 인구밀도를 가진 방글라데시는 난민을 수용할 능력이 없다며 “모든 난민을 돌려보낼 것”이라고 입장을 밝혔다. 방글라데시 외무부는 11월 24일 미얀마 정부가 소수민족 박해를 멈출 것을 요구하는 등 국제사회의 도움을 요청했다.
미얀마 라키네(Rhakine) 주에 살고 있는 무슬림 소수민족인 ‘로힝야’족은 영국의 식민지배 당시 인도 동부와 주변지역에서 라키네 주로 이주하여 수백년간 나프(Naf) 강 하류의 비옥한 땅을 경작하며 살아왔다.
1978년 미얀마 정부는 로힝야족을 ‘외부에서 온 침입자’로 규정하고 박해하기 시작했다. 이 과정에서 20만명 이상의 난민이 발생하였다. 당시 방글라데시 정부는 유엔난민고등사무소(UNHCR)의 협조를 바탕으로 난민 대부분을 고향으로 돌려보냈으나 여전히 접경지역 난민캠프에는 2만명 이상이 수용돼 있다.
미얀마 정부는 올해 10월 초 라키네 주에서 9명이 사망한 테러 공격 이후 다시금 박해를 시작하여 70명 이상의 사상자와 3만명 이상의 난민이 발생했다.
다카, 방콕, 쿠알라룸푸르, 자카르타 등 주변국 대도시에서는 미얀마 정부의 소수민족 박해를 규탄하는 시위가 있었다. 특히 11월 25일 다카에서 열린 시위에는 수천명이 참여했다.
현재 국경수비대를 피해 방글라데시에 피난중인 난민의 수는 8천명이 넘는다. 국제사회는 미얀마의 변화를 촉구하고 난민들이 고향으로 돌아갈 수 있도록 모든 노력을 기울여야 한다.<번역/ 윤석희 주미특파원>
다음은 기사 원문 전문이다.
DHAKA (Bangladesh): While the persecution by Myanmar army continues in Rakhine State, thousands of Rohingya Muslims thronged the Bangladesh border in their attempt to infiltrate into this country for shelter. Hundreds of Rohingyas are floating in dozens of wooden boats in the Naf River at the border of the two countries. Para-military Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) personnel are patrolling in the 52-kilometer long border river round the clock to resist the illegal entry of Rohingyas. However, several thousand Rohingyas have already infiltrated into Bangladesh territory through other routes at the hilly areas of Teknaf located at the southern point of the country.
Meanwhile Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzman Khan categorically said the Rohingyas will not be allowed to cross the border and those who have infiltrated will be pushed back to Myanmar. Worried over the influx of Rohingyas facing persecution in Myanmar, Dhaka has sought support from the international community for resolving the crisis. Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali made the call at a diplomatic briefing in Dhaka on November 24. Dhaka also voiced serious concern at the influx of Rohingyas to Bangladesh in spite of BGB’s efforts to stop it. The Foreign Minister expressed Bangladesh’s deep interest in helping the Myanmar government in all possible ways ? from addressing its security concern to contributing in the social reconciliation and economic development of the Rakhine State.
The persecution of Rohingyas started in Rakhine State, close to Bangladesh’s southern border, in the first week of October this year. Following attacks by unknown terrorist groups on Myanmar police outpost in Rakhine State that claimed 9 lives, Myanmar army cracked down on the Rohingya population. According to newspaper reports quoting UN sources, over 70 Rohingyas have been killed by Myanmar army while hundreds sustained injuries. Eight hundred houses of Rohingyas were torched and more than 30,000 people were displaced. Many Rohingya women were also raped by Myanmar army personnel, it was alleged.
Most of the displaced Rohingyas rushed to Bangladesh border in their bid to enter Bangladesh territory for shelter. They tried to cross the Naf River by boats, but they were resisted by Bangladesh Border Guards. Even then, some 8,000 Rohingyas reportedly managed to enter into Bangladesh territory by other land routes.
A Bangladesh Home Ministry spokesman said Dhaka is sympathetic to the affected Rohingyas who were displaced. But Bangladesh, a country of 56,000 square miles having a large population of 160 million, cannot afford to give shelter to huge number of refugees from Myanmar. “The country is already over populated, we are not in a position to provide shelter to refugees”, the spokesman said.
Rakhine State in Myanmar is the home to over one million Rohingya Muslims. They have lived there for centuries. Once Burma (Myanmar) was the part of Indian sub-continent under British rule. At that time people from the Eastern part of India and also from some other countries migrated to Arakan (now Rakhine State) and settled there. They cultivated fertile agricultural land of Arakan and earned their living and contributed to the food supply for the rest of the country. Now, Rohingyas belong to an ethnic minority group of Myanmar, who have their own culture and language. But unfortunately Myanmar authorities do not acknowledge Rohingyas as an ethnic minority group of the country. They claim that Rohingya are infiltrators who migrated from neighboring countries to Myanmar.
The trouble started in 1978 when Myanmar authorities started persecution of Rohingyas and pushed them towards Bangladesh border. Bangladesh allowed the Rohingyas to enter into the country on humanitarian ground and provided them with food and shelter. Later with the intervention of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 200,000 displaced Rohingyas were repatriated in 1979 to their homes in Rakhine State. However, Myanmar refused to take back 20,000 Rohingyas who are still staying at two camps in Bangladesh under the management of UNHCR. Bangladesh and UNHCR are insisting for their repatriation to Rakhine State, but there is no positive response from Myanmar authorities.
There was another persecution and violence in Rakhine State in 2012 and many Rohingyas infiltrated into Bangladesh at the time and are staying illegally here. After that violence, the ongoing persecution this year in Rakhine State is considered to be the biggest.
The military crackdown on Rohingyas sparked angry protests from Jakarta to Dhaka. Myanmar’s ambassador in Dhaka was summoned to Bangladesh’s Foreign Office few days ago and Bangladesh officials lodged strong protest against persecution of Rohingyas in Rakhine State and pushing them into Bangladesh territory. Meanwhile, street demonstration in Dhaka continues protesting the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar. Around 5,000 people demonstrated in Dhaka on Friday (25 November) with hundreds more protesting in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok to accuse Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Rakhine State.
Diplomatic observers in Dhaka believe there should be international pressure on Myanmar government to stop persecution of Rohingyas and violence in Rakhine State. At the same time Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh should be repatriated to Myanmar for the greater interest of peace in the region.