COLOMBO: A group of Buddhist monks belonging to an extremist Sri Lankan nationalist organisation attacked on Tuesday houses of Rohingya Muslim refugees on the outskirts of the capital, forcing the police to arrest the “illegal immigrants”.

The 31 refugees, including women and children, were sent away to the detention camp at Boosa in South Sri Lanka.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the cooperation of which was sought, was assured that the sojourn of the refugees in Boosa, primarily meant for terror suspects, would only be temporary. The UNHCR accepted the arrangement.

The government and the UNHCR are working together to ensure the refugees’ “safety” and that the Detention Centre is in “good condition”.

The UNHCR has called for a meeting with stakeholders in the government. The meeting could take place either on Wednesday or Thursday.

The diplomatic community in Colombo will also be briefed about the action taken. Tuesday’s attack by Buddhist monks came against the backdrop of demonstrations against the Rohingya Muslims in the recent past after it was suspected that the government might accommodate them on humanitarian grounds giving them refugee status.

AFP adds: Saffron-robed Buddhist monks led a mob that broke down gates and entered the walled multi-storied compound as frightened refugees huddled together in upstairs rooms, a police official said. A monk who stormed into the building was filmed by his radical Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa (Sinhalese National Force) as he urged others to join him and smash the premises.

“These are Rohingya terrorists who killed Buddhist monks in Myanmar,” the monk said in his live commentary on Facebook, pointing to Rohingya mothers with small children in their arms.

Sri Lanka’s extremist Buddhist monks have close links with their ultra-nationalist counterparts in Myanmar. Both have been accused of orchestrating violence against minority Muslims in the two countries.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2017

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