Stand Firm against Myanmar’s Dilly-dallying over Rohingya Return

Nazrul Islam

14 June, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh’s generosity to host more than a million Rohingya Muslims over humanitarian ground is apparently being undermined by none other than Myanmar, a South East Asian country ruled for decades by military junta.

Nearly two years after the mass exodus of Rohingya into Bangladesh from northern Rakhine state, Myanmar authorities led by Aung San Suu Kyi are still doing nothing but making leap services to create an atmosphere conducive to repatriation of the persecuted refugees.

Rather, to the highest of their audacity, one of its ministers blamed Bangladesh for the delay in beginning the process for safe and dignified return of the refugees.

Bangladesh, which maintains a foreign policy of “friendship to all, malice to none”, has always been trying to resolve the Rohingya crisis, unfolded after the August 2017 brutal military crackdown launched in northern Rakhine state, through peaceful dialogue.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her multi-pronged diplomatic efforts, has been pursuing regional and global leaders to resolve the long-standing problems in the Rakhine, once a home to nearly 3 million minority Muslims in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

But to the utter disappointment, the Suu Kyi government, half of which is still being held by the powerful military segments, still shows reluctance after killing unknown number of minority people, torturing them and that of allegedly raping Rohingya women during the so-called clearance operation.

The operation was termed a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations while the global rights groups accused the Myanmar military of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The 2017 operation dove away nearly 750,000 Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh. The rest 400,000 crossed the border in earlier times as the persecution in Rakhine state was a common phenomenon as the Burmese authority stripped off citizens of the Rohingya minority in the early 1980s.

Dhaka signed a bilateral instrument with Naypyidaw for peaceful, dignified and voluntary repatriation of the displaced Myanmar citizens in November 2017 urging the authorities on the other side of the border to create an environment so that the returnees are safe at their homes once they go there.

An attempt of refugee repatriation last year failed as the Myanmar authorities neither upgraded any infrastructure nor did they ensure security in Rakhine, most part of which is still inaccessible to the aid agencies. The aid-dependent refugees, who stay idle at the crowded tents in Bangladeshi camps, protested the bid and stayed away from being repatriated. That’s all. The process stalled.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been mobilising diplomatic supports for the safe and dignified return of the Myanmar citizens, made the eye-opening remarks for the Bangladeshi diplomats and the aid agencies working in Rohingya camp when she at a press conference said “Myanmar is unwilling to take the Rohingya back home”.

Once an alienated-military polity in Myanmar could not have earned democratic norms, humanitarian values and respect for inclusiveness despite the fact that Western powers had tried long to introduce democratic political reforms in the South East Asian nation until 2011. In 2016, a civilian took the helm of the country for the first time since the military coup in 1962. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was made the de facto leader with most powerful ministries being captured by the military-men.

And, thus the state machineries in Myanmar still continue their dilly-dallying over many domestic, regional and international issues, including the Rohingya crisis.

Bangladesh’s foreign ministry on Wednesday briefed the foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka asking them to mount more pressure on Myanmar to create an atmosphere for peaceful return of the Rohingyas, who have turned into a burden for Bangladesh’s economy and society as well.

This huge size of idle Rohingya population, mostly uneducated, has already been engaged in various crimes in Bangladesh creating social disharmony in the south-eastern part of the country. They are also reportedly trying to collect Bangladeshi passports to travel outside and are trying to sail into the sea to cross the border by rickety boats. None of them are good news for Bangladesh. Fears are there that these Muslims might turn to be zealots unless they are checked properly, and thus they might turn to be threat for entire South Asia banding together with the outlawed radical groups.

Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen has called the diplomats, including the Western ones who have long been fighting the menace of radical Islamists, militancy and terrorism across the world, to rise for the cause at a proper time.

As the minister put, “These are not the case of repression on Muslims only. Humanity is being trampled, if you have respect for humanity, you should stand against Myanmar.”

He said Myanmar did not honour its words, despite the fact they have time and again promised to take the Rohingya back home.

“They told us at a meeting six months ago that they would make everything ready, but we saw no progress has been made when we sat with Myanmar officials last month. No Rohingya, including even those are staying at the no-man’s land, has yet been returned. How long such blatant lies could be tolerated?”  


The writer is a journalist based in Dhaka and can be reached at: [email protected]