Panic grips Tumbru after fire, deadly gunfight between Rohingya groups

Law enforcers and locals said two armed Rohingya groups of Myanmar fought a gun battle along the border

Cox’s Bazar
Published : 19 Jan 2023, 05:15 PM
Updated : 19 Jan 2023, 05:15 PM

Bangladeshis residing in the areas along the Tumbru border at Ghumdhum in Bandarban’s Naikkhyangchhari have been living in fear since a deadly gunfight between two armed groups of Myanmar Rohingya.

Amid the gun battle on Wednesday, a fire destroyed two-thirds of a refugee camp housing thousands of members of the Myanmar ethnic minority on a strip of land between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The refugees from the camp have taken shelter at Ghumdhum High School as the situation has triggered fears of another Rohingya influx after more than 1.1 million crossed the border into Bangladesh during a brutal Myanmar military crackdown in 2017.

“No one is going near the zero line as the residents are extremely panicked. Security has been strengthened,” said Jahangir Aziz, chairman of Ghumdhum union council.

Abdur Rahim, a teacher of Tumbru Government Primary School, said many families left home in 2022 after conflicts between the rebel Arakan Army and the Myanmar military had escalated. Mortar shells fired from Myanmar landed in Bangladesh during the conflict

“The gunfight between the two armed groups of Myanmar and the fire incident in the Rohingya camp have instilled fresh fears among the locals,” said Rahim.

Azizul Haque, a resident of GHumdhum’s Konapara who works at an NGO, said people living near the border fear attack by armed Rohingya groups.

Sounds of shots fired during the fight between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, and the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, or RSO, could be heard until Wednesday midnight, said Romen Sharma, chief executive of Naikkhyangchhari Upazila administration.

It is still unclear what has happened in the refugee camp as Border Guard Bangladesh does not have jurisdiction in the no man’s land, he said. “We’ve seen that two-thirds of the camp have been burnt down.”

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, more than 4,500 Rohingya refugees lived in the camp.

Romen said some of them have taken shelter in Ghumdhum High School while “most” others returned to Myanmar.

The Médecins Sans Frontières hospital for the refugee camps reported one death in the fight. Two others were injured, said Sheikh Mohammad Ali, chief of Ukhiya Police Station in Cox’s Bazar.