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Rohingya living in ‘no man’s land’ insist they will stay

| | B’desh-Myanmar border | in Sunday Pioneer

From their home, a tent hastily erected in a grassy field, the young Muslim Rohingya couple can see the village they left behind last year, fleeing attacks by Buddhist mobs and Myanmar security forces. They arrived in a no man’s land, one of the small, ill-defined areas that exist at the cloudiest edges of the borderlands, places that seem to be neither Myanmar nor Bangladesh.

 While nearly every other Rohingya refugee who crossed the border has sought protection in the immense camps a few miles deeper into Bangladesh, these people say they will go no farther.

“My ancestors’ graves are there,” said Abdul Naser, gesturing toward his village, less than 100 meters (yards) away. “Sometimes, I walk close to the barbed wire fence and touch my land, and I cry in the dark.” But a few weeks ago things changed. Myanmar deployed more soldiers to the border, some of whom began coming to within 10 meters (yards) of the refugees’ homes.

They shout insults at the Rohingya, the refugees say, they throw empty whiskey bottles. They have set up speakers that blare announcements, insisting people go further into Bangladesh. Because to Myanmar, no man’s land doesn’t exist at all. “We cannot accept the term ‘no man’s land’ because that is our land,” said Nyan Myint Kyaw, Myanmar’s deputy commander of the border police. Shifting rivers may have washed away some border markers, he says, and fences may not have been erected everywhere.

But he insists the 6,000 or so Rohingya who think they live between the two countries are actually living inside Myanmar. It is easy to get confused on the border, where many areas are not marked at all and where it’s sometimes unclear if a fence marks someone’s personal land, or if it demarcates the frontier. Making things more complicated, Myanmar places its border fences 150 feet from the actual boundary line.

While Myanmar insists all the hazy territory is their land, its security forces as well as Bangladesh security forces are also very careful to avoid entering places seen as a no man’s land, presumably fearing accidental clashes and diplomatic trouble. Myanmar says the additional soldiers were deployed to stop possible  cross-border attacks by Rohingya militants, though no such attacks are known to have occurred.  




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