Rohingya refugees stage protest as they mark anniversary of exodus from Burma

Rohingya refugees stage protest as they mark anniversary of exodus from Burma

Thousands of Rohingya refugees have marked the second anniversary of their exodus from Burma into Bangladesh.

They staged a rally demanding that Burma grant them their citizenship and other rights before they agree to return.

Up to 30,000 joined the rally days after Bangladesh, with the help of the UN refugee agency, attempted to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya Muslims.

None of them agreed to go back voluntarily, citing fears for their safety and a lack of confidence in Burma. The UNHCR said on Thursday that building confidence was essential for repatriation.

Burma had scheduled August 22 for the beginning of the process but it failed for a second time after the first attempt last November.

The repatriation deal is based on an understanding that the return has to be “safe, dignified and voluntary”.

The refugees also insisted on receiving Burma citizenship and other rights, which the Buddhist-majority nation has refused to grant so far.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, said that her administration will not use force to send them back despite a huge burden on the South Asian country.

More than one million Rohingya live in Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees stage protest as they mark anniversary of exodus from Burma

In the Kutupalong camp on Sunday, some carried placards and banners reading “Never Again! Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day” and “Restore our citizenship”.

They raised their hands at a prayer session and cried, many loudly, as an imam led the sermon with an emotional narration of their sufferings.

Security was tight in the camps despite the pledge by Rohingya groups that they would protest peacefully.

Burma has consistently denied human rights violations and says military operations in Rakhine state, where most of the Rohingya fled from, were justified in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

A UN-established investigation last year recommended the prosecution of Burma’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the crackdown on the Rohingya. Burma dismissed the allegations.

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