Report: Rohingya Refugee Camp Fire Was 'Planned Sabotage'

    Report: Rohingya Refugee Camp Fire Was 'Planned Sabotage'
    Last updated Mar 13, 2023
    Image credit: Reuters [via BBC News]


    • On Sunday, the seven-member probe committee into the March 5 fire at a Rohingya refugee camp in the Bangladesh district of Cox's Bazar presented its report, describing the blaze as a "planned and purposeful act of sabotage."
    • Investigators drew on input from scores of eyewitnesses to claim that militant groups were behind the alleged arson in a bid to establish supremacy inside the camps, with the panel finding that fire broke out in several places simultaneously.
    • The investigation committee added that almost 16K Rohingya refugees from more than 3K families were affected by the incident at the Balukhali Rohingya camp in Ukhiya. The blaze completely destroyed over 2.6K houses and 2.7K offices while also injuring 212 people.
    • The interviewees said that refugees were intentionally instructed not to extinguish the blaze as they were told to run for their lives. A day earlier, two unidentified criminal groups reportedly clashed and exchanged gunfire.
    • Since the devastating blaze on March 5, at least seven other fire incidents were reported in different locations within the camp. The Bangladesh defense ministry last month stated that 222 fire incidents took place in the Rohingya camps from Jan. 2021 to Dec. 2022, including 60 cases of arson.
    • Violence has been mounting through the camps in southeast Bangladesh, where almost a million Rohingya have sought refugee status since 2017. This has stemmed from concerns surrounding persecution by the Myanmar military, as militant groups have turned against each other; at least 40 refugees were killed in 2022.


    Narrative A

    The suffering of the Rohingya people is indescribable. The accommodations and conditions of the camp have been appalling and now the fire has destroyed countless homes and businesses, leaving people to face homelessness and uncertainty. Life can only improve in the camp if recovery includes homes made of more substantial and sturdy materials like steel and brick, and urgent health and safety needs are addressed.

    Narrative B

    Following the five-year mark of refugees inhabiting Bangladesh, the government is coercing the refugees to return home. The National League for Democracy-led government and the Myanmar State Administrative Council have failed to secure a safe and humane environment in the Rakhine state. The Rohingya people want nothing more than to leave the barbed-wire, subpar encampments, and return home but there are no safe options to do so.

    Narrative C

    This tragedy was bound to happen — and that was exactly why Bangladesh was urgently asking for help from all relevant stakeholders to achieve a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis. Bangladesh is a small, highly-populated country that already faces several other challenges, so the continued presence of more than 1M displaced people is neither reasonable nor sustainable.

    Articles on this story

    Sign up to our newsletter!