Hundreds of children have staged a protest rally at refugee camps in Bangladesh to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims that forced thousands to flee across the border into the neighboring country.
Community leader Mohammad Osman said between 3,000 and 4,000 children participated at the surprise 15-minute march in the Kutupalong camp, the world's largest refugee settlement, in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh on Wednesday.
The police put the number of the participants at the rally at only a few dozen children.
The protesters chanted slogans such as "We want justice" and "We want safe repatriation."
The rally came despite a ban imposed by Bangladesh authorities on protests as part of measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus cases have dropped recently and the government has eased national restrictions but would not allow the Rohingya to stage even small events on Wednesday.
Media reports said thousands of armed police and troops patrolled the camps in Cox's Bazar on Wednesday but did not act against the children.
Some women also staged silent protests in front of their shanty homes, carrying placards that read "We want justice," AFP cited a rights activist as saying.
The Rohingya Muslims based in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been subjected to a campaign of killings, rape and arson attacks by the military backed by the country’s majority Buddhist extremists in what the UN has described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The brutal campaign has forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee their homeland since August 2017 and seek refuge in Bangladesh.
The 2017 clampdown is the subject of a genocide investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Rohingya, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, are denied citizenship and are branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.
On the fourth anniversary of the crackdown, several groups in Myanmar issued statements calling for accelerated efforts to prosecute those responsible for the 2017 military action.
"Four years on justice for the Rohingya remains shamefully elusive. Not a single individual who committed the heinous crimes against the Rohingya has been held to account," said Progressive Voice, an advocacy group.