KUTUPALONG (Bangladesh) • About 200,000 Rohingya rallied in a Bangladesh refugee camp yesterday to mark two years since they fled a violent crackdown by Myanmar forces, just days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees.
Around 740,000 Rohingya from Myanmar's Rakhine state escaped in August 2017 during the brutal offensive, joining another 200,000 who fled earlier persecution.
The nearly one million refugees now live in three dozen squalid camps in Bangladesh's south-eastern border district of Cox's Bazar.
Yesterday, children, hijab-wearing women and men in long-skirt lungis shouted "God is great, long live Rohingya" as they marched at the heart of the world's largest refugee camp, to commemorate what they described as "Genocide Day". Under the scorching sun, thousands joined in a popular song with the lyrics "the world does not listen to the woes of Rohingya".
Myanmar had said it was conducting counter-insurgency operations against Rohingya extremists after they attacked police posts, but the United Nations last year called for Myanmar's top generals to be prosecuted for genocide over the crisis.
Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah said the stateless minority wanted to return home, but only after they were granted citizenship, their security was ensured and they were allowed to settle back in their villages.
Police officer Zakir Hassan told AFP some 200,000 Rohingya took part in the peaceful gathering, which was attended by UN officials.
Security has been tight across Kutupalong camp, home to more than 600,000 Rohingya.
The rally came three days after the failed attempt to repatriate the refugees, which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border.
The Rohingya are not recognised as an official minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in the country for generations.