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Bangladesh says may seal off Burma
Subject: Bangladesh says may seal off Burma refugee camps
Bangladesh says may seal off Burma refugee camps
26 August 1997
Web posted at: 00:42 JST, Tokyo time (15:42 GMT)
CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, Aug 25 (Reuter) - Bangladesh said on Monday it might
seal off camps housing some 21,000 Burmese Moslems to stop clandestine food
reaching the refugees.
"We have tightened security around the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps and may
seal them off completely," one government official said.
They said they had to "plug illegal channels" for sending food to the refugees
and end outside interference that "often ignites unrest in the camps," the
official told Reuters in Chittagong.
More than 12,000 refugees at Nayapara have refused rations since July 21 in
protest against alleged attempts by Bangladesh to send them home by force.
More than 8,000 refugees at Kutupalong, although accepting rations, have
voiced support for the Nayapara refugees who have asked to stay in Bangladesh
until Burma's military rulers are replaced by a democratically elected
The officials said the refugees would have softened their stance and received
rations if they had no clandestine supplies.
"It's not possible for anyone, especially the children and the old, to survive
without food for more than a month," one official said.
"They are not only alive but have enough physical strength to agitate and even
attack security men," he added.
But he said the government had no plans to starve the refugees into
submission. "We are ready with food and other help, but they are not accepting
them," he said.
The 21,000 refugees are remnants of some 250,000 Burmese Moslems, known as
Rohingyas, who fled west Burma's Arakan province in early 1992 to escape
alleged military persecution.
The majority returned to Burma under the supervision of the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Bangladesh says the Rohingyas are economic refugees who must go back but that
no one will be pushed back against their will.
The refugees, apparently not satisfied by such promises, clashed with police
on July 20, forcing the repatriation process to be suspended.
Dhaka is negotiating with Rangoon to extend a repatriation deadline for some
7,000 Rohingyas whom Burma had already cleared for returning.
The deadline expired on August 15, officials said.