Sunday, 5 December, 2021

UN Resolution on Rohingya: High Time Bangladesh Used ‘French Card’

Pathik Hasan

UN Resolution on Rohingya: High Time Bangladesh Used ‘French Card’

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This is the first time that the United Nations has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the protection of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities. The UN General Assembly's Third Committee on Wednesday (November 17) passed a resolution on the "human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar." The proposal was jointly raised by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union (EU) and co-sponsored by inter-regional countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan, and Korea. A total of 107 countries have co-sponsored the resolution, the highest since 2017.

It called on Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, fulfil its obligations under the bilateral agreement with Bangladesh, and cooperate with other agencies, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Myanmar and all UN human rights bodies, the renewal and effective implementation of the MoU signed between Myanmar and the UNHCR and UNDP in an effort to create a conducive environment in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.

For the first time, the adoption of a UN resolution on the Rohingya by consensus carries political significance, like all countries, including Russia and China, have shown interest in resolving the long-term crisis. This can be a significant day for Bangladesh. China, Russia, and some countries which had created obstacles earlier (on the issue) did not create obstacles this time, which means they are going to change their stance on the Rohingya issue.

But in fact, no action can be taken on any issue with the resolution passed in the General Assembly. This requires a unanimous resolution in the Security Council. However, the extent to which this resolution can play a helpful role in resolving the Rohingya crisis in the current context is being discussed everywhere. Now the United Nations, all countries of the world, and human rights organizations must be vocal in implementing it. This would be possible if such kind of resolution can be adopted in UNSC because UNSC has the power to implement the resolution.  Now it is high time for Bangladesh to take and raise the issue at United Nations Security Council. Bangladesh can use the ‘French Card’ in this regard. If this change is possible, it will be possible to pass such a resolution in the Security Council. And that will play a truly effective role in ensuring a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis. For this, Bangladesh has to continue its strong diplomatic activities. Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina recently paid a visit to France from November 9 to November 13.  Bangladesh urged France to stand by Bangladesh in resolving the long-running Rohingya problem. France has assured to stand by Bangladesh in resolving the crisis. The assurance was given by French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting with visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Paris on November 10, 2021. France agreed and promised that they would remain beside Bangladesh until the permanent solution of the Rohingya crisis. Side by side, Bangladesh has to continue bilateral talks with China and Russia.

Bangladesh is providing shelter and emergency humanitarian assistance to 1.1 million Rohingyas who have fled persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. However, Bangladesh now sees these large numbers of refugees as a 'burden'. This is a big burden for Bangladesh and a big disaster for the environment.

The Rohingyas, who fled in August 2017 in the face of persecution by Myanmar's military, have reported horrific reports of indiscriminate killings, rapes, arsons, and arson, which the United Nations has called "ethnic cleansing."

In the face of international pressure, the Myanmar government signed an agreement with Bangladesh in late 2017 to repatriate the Rohingya, but the repatriation has not yet begun. Bangladesh has been urging the international community to put pressure on Myanmar to start repatriation.

Bangladesh has been urging the international community including UNO, ASEAN, OIC to resolve the problem. But no concrete action is seen yet. As a result, our Rohingya problem, the Palestinian problems are still hanging.

It is France in Europe which can play a significant role in resolving the ‘Rohingya refugee crisis. As an active member of the European Union and ‘United Nations Security Council’, France can do some for Rohingya refugees.

Now is the time to put pressure on the Myanmar forces, because those are killing the people of their country after a military coup in February this year. France can contribute more in this regard.

France can motivate to change the attitude of the international community towards the Rohingya crisis. France can engage itself with the international community, especially Russia and China in this regard. Beijing and Moscow need more to come out of Pandora's Box on the Rohingya issue. Already, we saw it on November 17 UNGA resolution.

As an active member of the EU, France should play a significant role at the platform. All members of the platform including France can pressurize Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas. France can raise the issue at the seminars, sessions, at the EU, UNSC.

France and all members of the EU should stop selling military equipment to Myanmar imposing an embargo. Pressure on Myanmar can be the strict solution to this problem. France can play an effective role in the EU in this regard. French companies can suspend any kind of activities in Myanmar. France has very good bilateral trade ties with ASEAN. It can negotiate with the members of ASEAN in this regard.

Recent AUKUS issue has created some kind of distance between France and UK, USA and Australia. France lost a billion dollars (90 billion) business deal. Thus, France needs some alternative markets. It needs Bangladesh to sell its military gadgets. The recent defence pact between France and Bangladesh is just an example to understand this. Bangladesh and France agreed to strengthen business ties.

France got a business partner in its ongoing crisis moment with the US, UK, and Australia. Reshaping ties with Bangladesh can give France some sort of comfort. It is true that France is bothered by the AUKUS issue.

Bangladesh also got an assurance from a European actor who is a permanent member of the UNSC and EU.  I say it is an opportunity for Bangladesh. Bangladesh should utilize this golden opportunity and engage itself with the international community using the French Card in case of the Rohingya crisis solution.

More involvement of international community is needed to assist in the repatriation of Rohingyas. More countries have to involve in this. It is the responsibility of the international community to work actively to address this humanitarian crisis. France can play an important ant role because the acceptance and credibility of France amongst the international community is huge.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit, Bangladesh and France signed three agreements on financial assistance and technical cooperation. Under the two agreements, France will provide 330 million Euros to Dhaka to support Bangladesh's development projects. Bangladesh is the largest recipient of AFD assistance in South Asia.

Bangladesh-France ties and cooperation is boosting up. French investments in Bangladesh are increasing day by day. Thus, France should resolve the problem of Bangladesh immediately for ensuring its own interest.

If the region becomes unstable and volatile for the Rohingya problem, France would be a loser to some extent. France’s growing ties with Bangladesh may face risk. So, it is also the responsibility of France to help resolve the crisis.

Canada and the Netherlands are assisting in the case against Myanmar over Rohingya genocide in the ICJ. Those two countries including France should come forward. The Rohingya crisis is a global crisis. This is not a crisis in Bangladesh.

 The Rohingya crisis must be resolved peacefully. Military intervention or sanctions will not bring any real solution. The peace process should begin. France with the international community can take a great initiative

Now, the position of France is very clear in this regard. Paris should be more active at all international levels in exerting political pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas in Rakhine in Myanmar. Now it is high time for Bangladesh to use the ‘French Card’ in resolving the Rohingya crisis.


The writer is an activist, researcher and analyst