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Bangladesh bans mobile phone access in Rohingya camps, shocking refugees

Bangladesh bans mobile phone access in Rohingya camps, shocking refugees

Bangladesh authorities have ordered to ban mobile phone access in Rohingya camps since Monday, Japan Times reports quoting the official. The measure should help police to decrease the criminal activities inside the camps but the refugees were shocked with such news.

On Monday, Bangladesh mobile operators shut down their services to almost 1 million Rohingya refugees living in camps in the southeastern part of the country.

According to the police, the move follows an outbreak of violence in recent weeks at the camps. It also comes after none of the refugees turned up in late August to return across the border to conflict-scarred Myanmar state Rakhine, when a fresh push to repatriate the refugees to Myanmar fell flat.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Zakir Hossain Khan, says that operators have seven days to submit warnings on the coming shut down networks in the camps. He also said that mobile phones for refugees mean a lot in their daily life and living. “ We’ve asked the operators to take action to stop it,” Khan added, saying that the decision was made on “security grounds.”

Many Rohingya rely on remittances sent by their diaspora and usually receive phone calls informing them of the money transfers.

Banning mobile connection could help to decrease criminal activity in Rohingya camps

Police spokesman Ikbal Hossain welcomed the decision, saying the refugees had been “abusing” mobile phone access to conduct criminal activities such as trafficking of methamphetamine pills worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Myanmar.

“It will definitely make a positive impact. I believe criminal activities will surely come down,” he said.

On Sunday, police said a fourth Rohingya refugee was shot to death in the fallout over the murder of local ruling party official Omar Faruk by suspected Rohingya criminals.

Faruk’s murder led hundreds of furious locals to block a highway leading to a refugee camp for hours on August 22, burning tyres and smashing shops popular among refugees.

While local police are doing their best to keep the law and order in the camps, Rohingya refugees insist the recent bloodshed has created an atmosphere of fear in the camp, where security has been tightened.