Bangladesh has stepped-up border patrols to deter a fresh influx of Rohingya Muslim refugees, sparked by a reported military crackdown in Myanmar's western Rakhine State. As well as further troop deployments, a curfew has been imposed in Rohingya-majority areas of Rakhine. An estimated one thousand Rohingyas entered Bangladesh over the past two weeks, Reuters reported
. However, Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya community leader in Bangladesh, maintained that the number of new arrivals was being exaggerated. "As far I know, 21 families, with an estimated 110-150 people, have arrived in various camps," Noor told ucanews.com. He has heard that the Myanmar military had resumed detentions and looting of Rohingya houses. New refugees, often hungry, were arriving to stay with relatives in Bangladesh, Noor said. However, Bangladeshi forces had been seeking to deny entry to boatloads of fleeing Rohingyas. Lieutenant Colonel Ariful Islam, a Bangladeshi border guard commander, told ucanews.com that he had been tasked with securing the border amid the military deployment in Rakhine and fresh exodus of Rohingya. Bishop Gervas Rozario, chairman of the Catholic bishops' Justice and Peace Commission, said that on humanitarian grounds, Bangladesh should allow more Rohingyas in. "Effective dialogue between Bangladesh and Myanmar is vital for a peaceful solution of the Rohingya crisis," he said. "The international community must put pressure on Myanmar's democratic government to offer citizenship and lawful rights to Rohingyas." Ethnic Rohingya Muslims have lived in Myanmar for centuries, however, they are officially stateless as the government and majority Buddhists consider them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh in past decades to escape persecution at the hands of the Myanmar army and Buddhists. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are 276,000 Rohingyas, including 32,000 registered refugees, in Bangladesh. A Rohingya militant attack on three Myanmar border posts on Oct. 9 that killed nine police sparked a deadly crackdown by the military, which drove refugees into Bangladesh. In January, Bangladesh announced a controversial plan to relocate refugees to Thengar Char, a flood-prone, uninhabited island in the Bay of Bengal.
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However, Rezaul Karim, chief government officer at Hatiya sub-district that covers the island, said the plan has been put on hold. "The plan is halted right now, and there have been no orders to develop the island," he said. "All we have there is a helipad and a jetty where a naval ship is constantly anchored."