Among the moments I remember best, thinking about years covering the news, I call Theater of the Absurd – the ridiculous and elaborate presentation of utter falsehood.
Reporter Hannah Beech of the NY Times seems to have had a front row seat in Myanmar near its border with Bangladesh.
She’d been invited to witness the repatriation of a dozen or so Rohingyas, ostensibly welcome to return from the refugee camps of Bangladesh. But it was all lies.
The men weren’t returning refugees, they told Beech, “They accused us of coming from Bangladesh, but we have never been to Bangladesh, Rakhine is our home.”
The chief immigration officer in this presentation accused the men of lying. They were, he said, what Myanmar Government Policy says all Rohingyas are, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. “Bengalis are not from our country because they have different blood, skin color and language from us,” he told the Times’ Beech, “We have no Rohingya here.”
That’s what Myanmar’s government wants — no Rohingya here — and it’s commissioned violent military and police operations in 2012, 2015 and 2017 that have driven close to a million Rohingyas out. The refugee count from last August’s super-pogrom is 700,000, most of them living in makeshift camps along the Bay of Bengal north and west of Myanmar.
Conditions in the camps are little more than survivable, which helps to explain why every Rohingya refugee that talked to Human Rights Watch’s man on the scene said they wanted to go home, back to Myanmar, Rakhine State.
If, of course, return were safe, survivable. A big “if” – but there are bigger ones, returnees want to be eligible for Myanmar citizenship, as they have not been, and eligible for university educations, and free to travel like anyone else in Myanmar from place to place.
Which is where the UN comes in, with its refugee agency and development program, to check out Rakhine State to see if it is as safe and as close to normal life as the Government claims it is. But so far, the UNHCR and UNDP haven’t even been able to come in, much less look and assess.
As much as the refugees want to go home, the Government of Bangladesh wants them home even more, as soon as possible.
Which means this: the Bangladeshi camps the Rohingya live in are wretched in good weather, and worse when they flood in heavy rain, as in the present rainy season. But the government’s rules prevent building anything much better because that would suggest permanent residence and these camps are meant to be temporary.
And bad as the present camps are, the Government is plotting something worse, a camp for 100,000 on a so-called island where monsoon flooding could be catastrophic.
As a Global Outreach Doctors (GODoc) team member, Tylerr Jones RN provided medical care on the frontlines in Mosul, Iraq; Served in Bangladesh as team leader to assist with the Rohingya refugee crisis; Was team leader for Hurricane Harvey in Houston; and served as team leader for Hurricane Irma in Florida.
Back at home in Santa Fe, NM, he is/has served as an ER nurse at Christus Regional Medical Center and Los Alamos Regional Medical Center. Tylerr is also Firefighter/EMT working on ambulances and firetrucks in the region.