4 Years After Fleeing Myanmar, Rohingya Still Risk Death Seeking a Better Life

An exhausted Rohingya woman touches the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, Sept. 11, 2017.

At least eight Rohingya children drowned in the Bay of Bengal last week – casualties of a desperate people’s desire to get away from the Bangladeshi camps where they’ve been confined since fleeing Myanmar four years ago.

They were among three dozen souls aboard a small boat that capsized in bad weather on Aug. 14 off Bhashan Char Island, leaving 26 dead or missing, and providing a bleak reminder of the plight of one million Rohingya who languish in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Three-quarters of them fled a 2017 Myanmar military crackdown, whose grim anniversary falls on Wednesday.

Bashir Ahmad was one of 12 people rescued by local fishermen from the capsized boat. He and ten family members had risked their lives to get away from the remote camp on Bhashan Char, where nearly 19,000 Rohingya have been shifted since December, with the promise of better conditions than in the sprawling camps of Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh.

"My wife and my four children are still missing,” Bashir told BenarNews. “We came here [Bhashan Char] with the hope for a better life, but we were deprived of it.”

Authorities have given up the search for the survivors.

The boat deaths in the Bay of Bengal came ahead of what Syed Ullah, leader of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, calls “a black day for Rohingya people.”