More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar in 2017 now live in camps near Cox's Bazar in southern Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government wants to move some to a new location. Photo: AFP/Masfiqur Sohan

Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) raided a clandestine gun factory near the southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar on Saturday (July 21), according to a report in the Daily Star, one of the country’s main English language newspapers.

The raid resulted in the seizure of 20 guns, a large number of bullets, as well as arms-making equipment, and the authorities arrested two people who were described as “technicians”.

The raid took place in Moheshkhali, which, along with nearby Idgarh, is a major center for the production of locally-made weapons.

It is uncertain who ordered the latest batch of weapons, but these factories have in the past produced guns for various criminal gangs in Bangladesh, plus militias associated with local politicians, and militant groups from across the border in Myanmar.

According to local sources, some weapons made in Bangladesh were smuggled across the border to Myanmar and used by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) during its attacks on August 25, 2017, which triggered a massive backlash from the Myanmar army.

Those primitive weapons turned out to be ineffective against the Myanmar military, and some may have been used in the refugee camps in Bangladesh against Rohingya who want to return to Rakhine State.

Bangladesh has deployed more than 2,000 policemen to the Rohingya camps near Cox’s Bazar after a series of “unexplained killings”.

Men armed with pistols, knives and sticks have killed more than 20 refugees since they fled from Myanmar last year. Most of the killings are likely to have been caused by internal disputes, such as access to aid, but some are reported to have been more politically motivated.

Radio Free Asia, in a 16 July report, quoted a Rohingya camp leader as saying that “ARSA militants were killing refugee leaders who publicly expressed their support for repatriating the refugees to Rakhine State.”

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