Bangladesh to install fences around Rohingya refugee camps

FILE - A Nov. 17, 2018 file photo of Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh. A Cabinet minister says authorities in Bangladesh will build barbed-wire fences around sprawling camps housing Rohingya refugees to stop their expansion. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin, File)

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Authorities in Bangladesh will build barbed-wire fences around sprawling camps housing Rohingya refugees to stop their expansion, a Cabinet minister said Thursday.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the fences were ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who had earlier told authorities to open the border to allow hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya to escape from a harsh military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar two years ago.

Khan did not say exactly when construction of the fences would begin at more than 30 camps near the border.

Last year, the U.N.-established Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar recommended the prosecution of top Myanmar military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Myanmar has rejected the allegations.

Earlier this month, Bangladesh's telecommunication regulator asked cellphone companies to halt service in the camps and restrict internet access because of a "security threat." The regulator said a recent survey in the camps revealed that cellphones are being used there illegally.

In recent months, more than 40 Rohingya have been killed amid concerns that some refugees are involved in smuggling illegal drugs from Myanmar. At least five Rohingya have been killed in recent weeks in what police described as shootouts between suspected Rohingya criminals and law enforcers.

The government is investigating allegations against some middlemen and officials of the national identity card and passport authority of making fake documents for Rohingya in exchange for bribes. Police have arrested several people and say many Rohingya are desperate to go abroad using Bangladeshi passports.

Bangladesh and Myanmar attempted for a second time to begin repatriating the refugees to Myanmar in August but failed after no one agreed to return voluntarily.

Bangladesh says it will not force any Rohingya to return to Myanmar.