APRIMITIVEPLACE – Stretching across the hills of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, stands Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp, sheltering over 800,000 people. However, the history of Kutupalong is not born from a single event, but rather an accumulation of oppression and the long-standing displacement of the Rohingya ethnic group. This story begins long before plastic tents filled the hillsides, uncovering old wounds that have yet to heal.
From Myanmar to Exile (1978 & 1991)
The journey of Kutupalong began with Operation Pyi Thaya in 1978, when the Myanmar military launched a brutal military operation against the Rohingya ethnic group. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were forced to flee across the border to Bangladesh. Kutupalong, which was not yet an official camp at the time, was hastily established to accommodate the refugees who were expelled from their homeland.
The tragedy continued in 1991, when the Myanmar military launched a similar operation. The influx of Rohingya refugees surged again, forcing the expansion of Kutupalong into a large-scale refugee camp.
2017: Mass Exodus and the Birth of a Giant Kutupalong
The year 2017 marked a turning point for Kutupalong. The brutal military operation by Myanmar against the Rohingya triggered a mass exodus. In a matter of months, nearly a million Rohingya refugees flooded into Cox’s Bazar, the majority concentrated in Kutupalong. The camp, which initially housed tens of thousands of people, is now overcrowded with almost 800,000 people.
The conditions in Kutupalong have become increasingly unlivable. Congestion, poor sanitation, and scarcity of resources are daily problems. In the midst of these limitations, the international community has tried to provide assistance, but it is not enough to meet the massive needs of the refugees.
The Hampered Hope of Repatriation (2018-2024)
Since 2018, efforts have been made to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar. However, this process has come to a standstill due to political instability in Myanmar and the reluctance of refugees to return to an unsafe environment.
The tragedy of a major fire in March 2023 further exacerbated the situation in Kutupalong. Thousands of homes were destroyed, worsening the living conditions of the refugees.
An Uncertain Future
As of 2024, Kutupalong remains a symbol of Rohingya suffering. Children born in the camp do not know their future beyond the plastic tents, women are victims of violence, and the hope of returning home is fading.
Kutupalong is a living history for most Rohingya refugees, but it should not be their future. This story serves as a stark reminder of the importance of protecting minority groups and the responsibility of the international community to find a permanent solution. Only with the enforcement of justice and security guarantees can Kutupalong be transformed into a story about the refugees’ return to their homeland.