Bangladesh will seal off refugee camps housing about one million Rohingya Muslims for three days around the country's tense general election this week, officials said yesterday. Rohingya living in the southeastern border district of Cox's Bazar will not be allowed out of their settlements from Saturday.
The Election Commission ordered authorities in Cox's Bazar to prevent refugees being exploited during election campaigning, Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said. "This is a security measure. The embargo also applies to NGO workers. They cannot go inside the camps unless it is an emergency," he told AFP. Police said extra roadblocks would be set up around the camps.
Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled what the U.N. called ethnic cleansing in Myanmar's Rakhine state after August 2017. There were already nearly 300,000 refugees in the overcrowded camps. More than 450 police will be deployed in the camps alongside border guards and community police, a spokesman said.
Thousands of troops were also put on law and order duties across the country yesterday amid escalating poll violence, said a military statement. Media reports said some 30,000 soldiers were joining more than 20,000 paramilitary forces already deployed. While such deployment is common ahead of national elections in Bangladesh, the opposition has been strongly demanding the military's engagement in the election process amid concern that violence could happen. The soldiers usually work as a striking force. At least six people have been killed in the election violence while the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) says at least 152 of its candidates have been attacked. The BNP meanwhile criticized Bangladesh star cricketer Mashrafe Mortaza for being a candidate for the ruling Awami League. Bangladesh law bars salaried public employees from contesting elections. Several opposition candidates have been disqualified because they have government jobs.