Fire at Rohingya camps in Bangladesh ‘planned sabotage’: Probe panel  

At least 15 charred bodies after a devastating fire destroyed thousands of shelters at a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh on March 5. (File photo).

Bangladesh authorities who were investigating the fire that gutted Rohingya camp in Kutupalong last week said the blaze was a “planned and purposeful act of sabotage”, reported BBC.

At least 2,800 shelters and more than 90 facilities, including hospitals and learning centres, were destroyed in the fire on March 5.

“At least five places caught fire within a short period of time. […] The day before the fire, there were shootings and clashes over dominance in that camp. Some people in the camps restricted refugees from dousing it, allowing the fire to burn the shelters,” senior district government official Abu Sufian.

More than one million Rohingya live in huts made of bamboo and plastic sheet in border district of Cox Bazar after they were driven out from Burma. The military-led crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 was condemned globally yet little was done for their rehabilitation or return.

“The fire was a planned act of sabotage,” senior district government official Abu Sufian, head of a seven-member probe committee, told Reuters news agency by phone from Cox’s Bazar on Sunday.

The investigation report was presented by the seven-person panel after interviewing 150 eyewitnesses which recommended further investigation to identify the groups behind the incident.

According to a report released by the Bangladeshi defence ministry earlier this month, there were 222 incidents of fire in the Rohingya camps between January 2021 and December 2022, with 60 instances of arson.

The panel also recommended the formation of a separate fire service unit for the Rohingya camps, reported the Al Jazeera. Each block of Rohingya camps needs to be widened to accommodate fire service vehicles and the construction of water cisterns, and the camps should use less flammable materials in shelters, among other recommendations, said the news outlet.

In March 2021, at least 15 people were killed and some 50,000 displaced after a huge fire tore through a camp in the settlement, according to BBC.


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