- By An Editor
According to the bilateral agreement made by Myanmar and the Bangladesh governments, the Myanmar government declared that the repatriation and resettlement programmes will be resumed. But, after signing an agreement with the UNHCR on January 22, Bangladesh postponed the repatriation plan.
It is evident that the Myanmar government is ready for repatriation to accept the displaced people who fled to other places following the terrorist attacks in Rakhine State.
The Myanmar government has taken measures to ensure safe and sustainable returns of the displaced people who will return by sea or by road.
But the Bangladesh government held up the repatriation process and said that the repatriation had been postponed on the grounds that the list of people to be sent back is yet to be prepared, their verification and setting up of transit camps is remaining.
The international community tries to mount pressure on Myanmar to agree what they are demanding regarding the displaced people from Rakhine State.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times journalist Hannah Beech wrote some articles highlighting made-up stories at the refugee camp in Bangladesh and “Blurring fact and fiction in at refugee camps risks undermining their case” which can reveal the truth behind the lies of the some media.
According to her articles, “She was reporting on children who had arrived in the camps without their families. An international charity, which had given financial support to their uncle, brought me to meet the girls. Within an hour, she had a notebook filled with the kind of quotes that pull at heartstrings. Little of it was true.
After three days of reporting, the truth began to emerge. Soyud Hossain, the supposed uncle who had taken the girls in, was actually their father. He had three wives, two in Bangladesh and one in Myanmar, he admitted. The children were from his youngest wife, the one in Myanmar.
In any refugee camp, tragedy is commoditised. Aid groups want to help the neediest cases, and people quickly realise that the story of four orphaned sisters holds more value than that of an intact family that merely lost all its possessions.
And such embellished tales only buttress the Myanmar government’s contention that what is happening in Rakhine state is not ethnic cleansing, as the international community suggests, but trickery by foreign invaders.
She said in her article that she had seen the Muslim people quoted in the foreign news media telling stories that I know are not true. Their accounts, in some cases, are too compelling, like a perfect storm of suffering. That is not to discount the collective trauma that has compelled nearly 700,000 residents in Myanmar to flee for Bangladesh over the past five months. Some estimates that 6,700 Muslim people met violent deaths in a single month last year. Even that number, the medical aid group says, is too low,”
“For four days, I interviewed a nine-year-old boy named Noorshad, and his story had it all. In my notebook, he drew pictures of his house – and the tree from which his parents were hanged by Myanmar soldiers. Then he drew the jerry-can he clung to as he crossed the river into Bangladesh. He tied his flip-flops to his waist, he said, with a bit of vine. The sandals were from his dead mother. He glanced at them and sobbed,”
But there were inconsistencies. Noorshad said he liked cricket, a sport popular in Bangladesh but not in Myanmar. His grandparents were killed by the military, he told me, but then he admitted they had died of natural causes. I found locals from the village I believed he was from. It turned out that no one had been killed there, much less hanged from a tree.
So where did Noorshad come from? He had been found crying in the market in the Kutupalong refugee camp. Other refugees took him to a school where a pair of women offered hugs and bowls of curry.
Obviously, something bad had happened to him, but to this day, no one has figured out his real story.
I have a better sense of the life of Hossain, the four girls’ father. His troubles, he said, began when he was briefly back in Myanmar and saw a 12-year-old girl with fair skin and delicate features. “She was so beautiful,” Hossain said. “I needed to marry her.”
Child marriage is distressingly common among the Muslim people, and soon, Hossain began shuttling among his three wives. Not every wife knew about the other, but Hossain didn’t think three wives were too many. His own father, he said, had six wives and 42 children.
Yet Hossain admitted that he was not adept at balancing family relations. When his four daughters sought shelter in Bangladesh after their village had been burned, Sajida, the wife with whom he has been living in the Leda refugee camp was furious.
“My husband is a bad man,” she announced, after she finally admitted the girls’ true provenance. “I am tired of all his lies.” Later, when I reached Hossain by phone, he was seething.
Background of the conflicts in Rakhine
International media neglected facts when they reported on the armed conflicts and follow-up incidents in Rakhine State.
No foreign media reported on background of the conflicts, the feelings of local ethnic people and their sufferings. Myanmar people believe the foreign media reports on the Rakhine issue are biased.
Due to selective international media, the attacks by terrorists faded out in favour of the view that the Myanmar army and Buddhists are bullies. Activists and societies connected with the Muslims in Rakhine lobbied international communities many years ago. When conflicts happened in Rakhine State, international communities put pressure on Myanmar, which is in the transition to democracy.
But the terrorist attacks and the fleeing of people from conflict areas are just the tip of the iceberg.
The huge and unseen part of the Rakhine issue is under the water. We need energetic efforts with strong desire
to explore the groups that are masterminding the Rakhine issue.
Hannah Beech, in her article, pointed out the majority of the media for their failure to seek the truth and ensure accuracy in their reports.
No one can deny the fact that she had seen the displaced people quoted in foreign news media telling stories that she knew lacked consistency and were totally groundless.
The credibility of the media is lost when they fail to seek the truth and ensure accuracy in their reporting.
The truth emerges too much later
The article by Hannah Beech appeared too late.
She produced the article due to her curiosity and doubts about the international media.
It also shows that an issue can be approached from different views.
Our country, which upholds the motto “We will prove with our work”, are continuing to work without caring praise and despite being denounced and pressured. We will face down everything with the unity of our people.
Win Ko Ko Aung