In the early hours of Wednesday, a Rohingya man was killed in a gunfight in the Sabrang area of Teknaf, along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, hours after he was arrested by the border guards with a consignment of Yaba pills, a methamphetamine-based drug.

Jafar Alam was arrested by the border guards on Tuesday and was accompanying them on an anti-drug raid along the border, when he was killed in the crossfire.

"We took him in a raid with us as we had information that a group of Yaba smugglers would be coming to Bangladesh from Myanmar," Teknaf BGB commander Lieutenant Colonel Asadud-Zaman Chowdhury said.

Wednesday's incident, however, is not an isolated one as owing to a lack of livelihood options in Bangladesh's overcrowded refugee camps, Rohingyas from Myanmar have been falling prey to the illegal drug trade.

At least 11 Rohingyas have been killed in different gunfights between security forces and drug dealers in the past 10 months, according to the police.

Asadud-Zaman added that they recovered 5,000 Yaba pills - a popular recreational drug in Bangladesh - and a country gun from the spot after the gunfight had ended.

Pradip Kumar Das, officer-in-charge of Teknaf police station, told EFE that 10 other Rohingyas had died in similar gunfights and shooting incidents between two groups of drug dealers since last year.

Bangladesh had launched an anti-drug campaign last May, which human rights groups had compared to that of the controversial drug war of the Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, that had invited global condemnation for rights abuses.

Bangladeshi human rights organization Ain of Shalish Kendra claimed that at least 292 people have died in anti-drug operations in the country between May and December.

In Teknaf, located in Cox's Bazar bordering Myanmar, known to be the country's main drug smuggling hub, 102 traffickers had surrendered to Bangladesh authorities last week.

Many drug smugglers, who used the refugees as drug mules, had also gone into hiding since the beginning of the anti-drug campaign, owing to which many Rohingyas became direct dealers.

"In the past, they were mostly used as a carriers but after local drug dealers went into hiding, Rohingyas are now directly dealing in the drug," Asadud-Zaman said, adding that they have arrested at least 26 Rohingyas with the drug in the last six months.

"Normally local people are not allowed to cross the border, but there's some sympathy for the Rohingyas who still have family across the border," said Cox's Bazar police spokesperson Iqbal Hossain.

Hossain said they have recovered Yaba pills from Rohingya camps although the problem, he says, has not reached an alarming level as yet.

The drug enters Bangladesh mostly from Myanmar but human rights activists feel it would be unfair to fix the blame on the refugees.

"It's true the involvement of Rohingyas in drug trafficking is increasing. But it will be unfair to blame them alone for this. They are mostly being used in this illicit business as carriers," Nur Khan Liton of the Bangladesh Human Rights Society told EFE.

"The amount of aid the Rohingyas receive is hardly enough. Some local people are taking advantage of their hardships. The Rohingyas are not bringing drugs into Dhaka, or Chittagong, it is the local people," he added.

More than 738,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 2017, after the Myanmar army launched an offensive in the Rakhine state, after Rohingya rebels launched attacks on several government posts in the area.

The campaign has been globally condemned for human rights violations and described by the United Nations as a genocide.

A majority of the Rohingyas - more than 620,000 people - live in just one area: Kutupalong, currently the world's largest refugee settlement.

In Nov. 2017, Bangladesh and Myanmar had signed an agreement for the repatriation of the Rohingyas, although it is yet to be implemented.

By Azad Majumder