MNA Feature Desk: Over two years have been passed since an enormous Rohingya influx had hit Bangladesh. More than 1.1 million Rohingya people, rightful citizens of Myanmar, are now sheltering on Bangladeshi soil. Our government has provided all sorts of support to them to ensure their shelter, food, water and sanitization even at the cost of our environment, ecology and economy. The global community also extended their support by providing aid for these refugees from all corners of the world.
But unfortunately their repatriation is still under doubt as the Myanmar government has portrayed serious lack of intent in creating an environment for their safe and secured return. Though lots of talks are going around throughout the world regarding their repatriation and the global leaders including UN officials have repeatedly declared to create pressure on Myanmar for taking back the persecuted Rohingyas of the Rakhine state of Myanmar, no fruitful steps are in sight yet. Hence, these Rohingyas are not only becoming a liability of for Bangladesh but also for the whole world as it is becoming an extreme violation of human rights.
Bangladesh has been hosting this huge number of forcibly deported Myanmar citizens, known as the Rohingyas from their Rakhine state, among whom 750,000 entered the country following a fresh crackdown on them by the Myanmar army in August 2017. They had been subject to extreme atrocities and barbaric torture by the Myanmar army with the support of the local Buddhists. The Myanmar government has been declining their citizenship rights for a long time but this crackdown was completely unexpected during the regime of Aung San SuuKyi, a noble laureate for peace.
She was acclaimed throughout the world for bringing peace and stability for the people and was seen parallel with democracy. But during this illegal and inhumane oppression over the Rohingyas, she remained silent and even tried to justify the drive. The UN has described the atrocities on the Rohingyas as ‘ethnic cleansing’ from the very beginning. People all around the world protested this oppression but the Myanmar government or should we say, Myanmar army remained unmoved.
As the Rohingyas in huge numbers were entering Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could not remain unmoved. She, by knowing the limitations of her country, opened the borders to give them shelters to save thousands of lives. It was a great humanitarian gesture of her considering our own troubles with the huge population and scarce resources to support such a large number of guests. But she was kind and courageous to take this bold step for which the world has titled her “Mother of Humanity”.
She has tried to promote the sufferings of these Rohingya people and the need of restoring their rights in every possible global forum. But other than received aids from the global donors, no strong steps were seen to create pressure on the Myanmar government. Few steps like banning the Myanmar generals to enter few countries, snatching away few awards from Suu Kyi were observed which could never change the fate of the persecuted, oppressed and suffering Rohingyas.
PM Hasina presented her speech at the 74th session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday. She has urged the global community to find a permanent solution to the ongoing Rohingya crisis. She presented a four-point proposal to the United Nation General Assembly to resolve the crisis as she declared in a high level meeting titled ‘Rohingya crisis: a way forward’ organized by the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretariat.
From that meeting she succeeded to attain considerable support of the OIC member nations on the issue of creating pressure on Myanmar for safe and secured repatriation of the Rohingyas. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad even compared the persecution of the Rohingyas to that of the Jews in the infamous Nazi concentration camps during the World War II and the Cambodian genocide. He also focused on the actions of the international community to do something about the Rohingya crisis as the Myanmar government is clearly unwilling to take any action to resolve it.
The Rohingya refugees could not be repatriated despite two attempts as Myanmar failed to create a safe environment for them. Sheikh Hasina marked this Rohingya crisis as a political problem which is rooted in Myanmar and also mentioned that the solution must be found there. Hasina stressed the need to ensure accountability for the human rights violations in the Rakhine state in order to ensure sustainable, safe and voluntary return of the Rohingyas.
Her four-points proposal for Myanmar includes directives like, expressing of clear political will manifested by concrete actions for sustainable return and reintegration of Rohingyas to Myanmar, building trust among the persecuted people by eliminating discriminatory laws and practices while allowing the Rohingya representatives visit the Northern Rakhine, guaranteeing security and safety of the Rohingyas by deploying civilian monitors from international community in Rakhine state and ensuring that the root causes of this problem are addressed and atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.
But there is little chance that Myanmar will accept these proposals. Throughout the last two years, they have acted shamelessly by lying in front of the global communities by justifying their actions. Bangladesh, China and Myanmar have agreed to form a ‘tripartite joint working mechanism’ to evaluate the situation on the ground for repatriation. China, though acted as a middleman, is known as a better friend of Myanmar than of Bangladesh and especially on Rohingya issues, they remained comparatively silent even few days back.
Moreover, as Myanmar conducted barbaric crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims, which is sort of religious attack, Muslims in China are also facing almost similar tortures for a while. Hence, we cannot get very hopeful about China’s involvement as it might just turn out as a measure of wasting time until the world forgets about these ill-fated refugees.
Myanmar is trying to give an impression that they are tangled on the process of Rohingya repatriation for more than a year. They have shown a lot of formalities, processes and functionalities in the return of these refugees. But they have even failed to create an environment in which these displaced Myanmar citizens will like to return to their very on Rakhine state.
The Myanmar government is welcoming the tortured and uprooted Rohingyas with armed forces who are ready to kill the returning people irrespective of men, women or children. This reckless behaviour must not be tolerated by the international community. This is not a matter of religion or ethnicity any more, it is complete display of lack of respect for the international community, the power of UN, the sovereignty of other nations, the regional harmony and most of all, the humanity.
The persecuted Rohingyas took shelter by cutting 6,800 acres of forest land which has severe impact on the ecology of Bangladesh. With around 180 million population of its own, the added refugees have heavy impact on the economy of the country also. Moreover, lack of proper education and continuous fight for survival, these Rohingya people are going to lose their competitiveness to lead a respectable life. They are now living just for living without any foreseeable future for themselves and for their next generations. Moreover, these refugees now are being often found in illegal activities like; robberies, drug peddling, creation of illegal citizenship documents, violence and chaos. This is making us concerned about the future of these displaced people and also that of the locals surrounding the shelter camps.
Rohingya crisis apparently is one of the most talked about issue of UNGA this year. Many countries have expressed their supports for Bangladesh on this issue. But it is not enough. Global community must act on putting tougher sanctions on Myanmar and should stop any types of transaction and trade with the country.
Additionally, the atrocities against the Rohingyas by the Myanmar army and the local Buddhists should be brought under justice in the International Criminal Court (ICC) as soon as possible. The global community should give a strong message to Myanmar that any delay over the repatriation of the Rohingyas will not be tolerated. Most importantly, once again the Annan Commission’s recommendations must be taken into consideration for the repatriation.
During the course of last two years, we have received a lot of promises and seen no action. We hope the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will emphasize on actions this time rather than words. From her farsighted leadership and experience, we are hopeful that she will be able to receive the commitment of the global community in creating substantial pressure over Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingyas to a safe, secured environment in their own homeland with all their citizenship rights ensure and preserved. Not promises but actions are what we require right now. Otherwise, we will face further consequences.
The writer is associate editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Kishore Bangla