August 2020 marked the completion of the third year since the exodus of 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Despite resource constraints, Bangladesh gave shelter to the persecuted Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds and expected the world powers to take steps for a peaceful solution to the crisis through negotiations with the Myanmar authorities.
To solve the Rohingya problem, we must find the root cause of the matter. Persecution of the Rohingyas was part of a greater plan to evacuate the western coastal areas of Myanmar for China’s massive infrastructure projects including a controversial hydropower dam and a deep seaport that is a vital link in the Belt and Road Initiative for global trade. Western Myanmar, with its location between booming India and Southeast Asia, is strategically important to Beijing, offering China’s landlocked western provinces potential port access to the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.The Rohingyas’ interests were sacrificed at the altar of geopolitics of the region. But it need not be so. The Rohingyas could have been relocated to nearby areas within Myanmar, instead of uprooting them through violence. With infrastructural development of the area, need will arise for workers and labourers, which the locals of Rakhine – the Rohingyas could have fulfilled. It would have been a win-win for all.
A lot of water has flown into the Bay since the Rohingyas were granted refuge in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has since tried to find a peaceful solution to the crisis through bilateral consultation for sustainable repatriation under bilateral Framework Arrangement and other instruments for the repatriation. Bangladesh tried repatriation twice at Myanmar’s insistence encouraged by other countries. But, those moves failed due to lack of sincerity of the Myanmar government in creating a congenial environment; the Rohingyas feel uncomfortable in the prevailing condition in Rakhine. The fact remains that the memories of the brutal persecution are still fresh in the minds of the Rohingyas.
Bangladesh is grateful to the US for taking strong actions including financial sanctions and visa restrictions on top military leaders, supporting the UN investigation mechanism and encouraging Myanmar to participate fully in International Court of Justice proceedings and comply with the court’s order. Meanwhile, Bangladesh also looks to India in resolving the crisis, as a newly-elected member of the UN Security Council.