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January 2023

Episode: KPN 23-01-2023

Kaladan Radio January 23, 2023 475 3

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Rampant Police Abuse of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh-part 02

The APBn officers arrested Soyedul Hoque, 57, in his betel leaf shop on November 2, 2022, and demanded 100,000 taka ($1,000) for his release. “Because we have such little income from the shop, we couldn’t pay the police anything,” his daughter said. He was charged with possession of 2,000 yaba tablets and remains in jail. Human Rights Watch interviewed a witness named on the First Information Report, a formal complaint, who knew nothing of the case or why he was listed.

The APBn crackdown has compounded fear and vulnerability among the one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the majority of whom fled Myanmar military atrocities in late 2017. The police abuses have escalated amid increasingly coercive restrictions on livelihoods, movement, and education in the camps, including harassment at checkpoints and closing community schools and markets.

The refugees also face threats due to the growing presence of armed groups and gangs. Bangladesh authorities should develop and carry out a rights-respecting security policy, in consultation with refugees, to protect the camp population, Human Rights Watch said. This should include providing comprehensive access to education and livelihoods to reduce illegal and dangerous economic activity.

In late October, the APBn initiated “Operation Root Out” in response to a spike in targeted killings by armed groups. The police have arrested at least 900 Rohingya since mid-2022. But refugees allege that APBn corruption has allowed criminal activity to proliferate, while Rohingya not responsible for crimes have ended up targeted in police crackdowns.

Family members of three Rohingya arrested during Operation Root Out said that the cases against their relatives were fabricated. APBn officers arrested Ali Yusuf, 23, a teacher, on October 29, claiming he had ties to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) armed group. His mother met with him at the police camp the next day.

“My son said that a number of Rohingya had been falsely arrested, accused of hoarding weapons like machetes, knives, or firearms,” she said. “He said the police had weapons and drugs in their possession and forced anyone arrested to be photographed to spread rumors about them. He told me not to pay any bribe. The majhi told me that if I paid the police money, he would be released, but I listened to my son.” In the First Information Report, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, Ali Yusuf is accused of possessing homemade weapons. His mother has not yet been able to afford the legal fees.

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