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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Myanmar unwilling to take back 1.20 million Rohingyas from Bangladesh

The Rohingya crisis is a humanitarian tragedy that has been unfolding in Myanmar for decades. Since August 2017, over a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar, also known as Burma, to escape persecution and violence by the military and Buddhist mobs. Most of them have sought refuge in neighboring Bangladesh, which is now home to the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.

While international pressure has been mounting on Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees, the country’s government has been unwilling to do so. Here are some of the reasons why Myanmar is reluctant to take back the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh:

Denial of citizenship: Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya Muslims as citizens and has denied them basic human rights for decades. The Rohingya have faced discrimination, violence, and even forced displacement over the years, leading many to flee the country in search of safety. Myanmar’s government has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has argued that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Fear of insurgency: Myanmar’s government has been fighting various ethnic insurgencies in different parts of the country for decades. The military views the Rohingya as a security threat and has accused them of having links to Islamist extremist groups. Myanmar’s authorities have claimed that Rohingya militants attacked police posts and army camps in August 2017, which triggered the military’s brutal crackdown on the Rohingya population. The government’s fear of insurgency and terrorism makes it hesitant to take back Rohingya refugees, as it sees them as a potential security risk.

Limited resources: Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, and the government lacks the resources to provide for the basic needs of its own citizens, let alone Rohingya refugees. The government has argued that it cannot afford to take back the Rohingya refugees and provide them with basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. Myanmar’s authorities have also pointed out that Bangladesh, which has been hosting the Rohingya refugees, has a much larger economy and is better equipped to care for them.

Lack of political will: Myanmar’s government has been accused of lacking the political will to address the Rohingya crisis. Despite international pressure and condemnation, the country’s leaders have refused to acknowledge the severity of the situation or take responsibility for the violence and displacement. Myanmar’s authorities have also resisted calls for an independent investigation into the military’s actions against the Rohingya population.

Domestic opposition: There is significant opposition within Myanmar to the idea of taking back Rohingya refugees. Many Burmese people view the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and harbor deep-seated prejudice against them. Buddhist nationalists, in particular, have been vocal in their opposition to the Rohingya, and some have even called for violence against them. The government is wary of going against public sentiment and risking further unrest or violence.

In my opinion, Myanmar’s unwillingness to take back the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh is rooted in a complex web of political, economic, and social factors. The Rohingya crisis is a tragic example of how ethnic and religious tensions, combined with state persecution and denial of citizenship, can lead to widespread displacement and suffering.

While it is expected that the international community needs to continue to pressure Myanmar to address the Rohingya crisis and provide a safe and dignified return for the refugees; one key reason behind forcing Rohingyas to flee Myanmar is yet to catch attention of the global media.

At least a decade ago, Myanmar decided to transform Rakhine State (formerly known as Arakan State) into “another Singapore” in the region, where foreign investors and business entities shall enjoy duty and tax-free facilities, similarly as Singapore. With 36,778, Rakhine State in the west of Myanmar shares an international border with Bangladesh and with the national states of Chin, Magway, Bago and Ayeyarwady. The Arakan Mountains or Rakhine Yoma separated Rakhine State from central Burma from North to South. Off the coast of Rakhine State there are some fairly large islands such as Ramree, Cheduba and Myingun.

Until recently Rakhine was one of the poorest states in Myanmar, where over 69 percent of the population lived in poverty. Rice is the main crop in the region, occupying around 85 percent of the total agricultural land. Coconut and nipa palm plantations are also important. Fishing is a major industry, with most of the catch transported to Yangon, but some is also exported. Wood products such as timber, bamboo and fuel wood are extracted from the mountains. But there is yet unexplored potential for petroleum and natural gas production. According to international statistics, the volume of petroleum and natural gas reserves in the Rakhine State is massive.

Although the ruins of the ancient royal town Mrauk U and the beach resorts of Ngapali are the major attractions for foreign visitors, which could ultimately become one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings, facilities were still primitive, and the transportation infrastructure rudimentary.

As the Myanmar authorities plan to implement their plan of transforming Rakhine State into “another Singapore”, since 2009, authorities have been focusing on establishing mostly hydropower plants in the region to ensure sufficient availability of electricity. Until now, three power plants installed in Saidin, Thahtay Chaung and Laymromyit is producing sufficient electricity to meet demands of the Rakhine State and other adjacent states and divisions.

Several foreign nations, including Britain, China, European Union, Japan, South Korea and the United States are eyeing on immense prospects of the Rakhine State and are willing to make their significant presence in economic activities in the region. Myanmar authorities do not want to miss the opportunity as transforming Rakhine State into “another Singapore” would drastically improve the socio-economic demography of the country. For this particular reason, Myanmar authorities are unwilling to let 1.20 million Rohingyas return from Bangladesh, as Rohingyas are seen by Yangon as trouble-makers, thugs and criminals. 

Despite such odds, Dhaka has been making consistent efforts in putting pressure on Yangon to take back their Rohingya citizen from Bangladesh. Here are some measures that the Bangladesh government has taken for quicker return of Rohingyas:

Diplomatic efforts: Bangladesh has been engaging in diplomatic efforts to put pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has raised the issue with other world leaders, including the United Nations, and has called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Bangladesh has also worked with other countries in the region, such as China and India, to find a solution to the crisis.

International pressure: Bangladesh has been working with the international community to put pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees. The United Nations, the European Union, and the United States have all condemned Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya and have called for a safe and dignified return for the refugees. Bangladesh has also worked with international organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to provide aid and support to the refugees.

Legal action: Bangladesh has taken legal action against Myanmar in an effort to hold the country accountable for the Rohingya crisis. In November 2019, Bangladesh filed a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, accusing the country of genocide against the Rohingya population. The case is ongoing, and Bangladesh is seeking a ruling that would require Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees and provide them with full citizenship rights.

Humanitarian aid: Bangladesh has provided humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugees and has worked with international organizations to provide support. The government has set up refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and has provided food, shelter, and medical care to the refugees.

Bangladesh has also worked with international organizations to provide education and vocational training to the refugees, with the aim of helping them become self-sufficient and reducing the burden on the host country.

In conclusion, the Bangladesh government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has taken a range of measures to pressure Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees. While progress has been slow, these efforts have kept the issue in the international spotlight and have helped to ensure that the refugees receive the support and aid they need to survive.But, due to the Ukraine war, the Rohingya issue is already missing the attention of the international media, while Bangladesh is not getting substantial foreign aid for meeting basic requirements of 1.20 million Rohingyas. Moreover, the presence of Rohingyas for the last six years is already giving birth to a series of adversities, where Rohingyas are getting involved into internal conflict, terrorist acts and joining transnational drug, weapon and human trafficking rackets. A section of Rohingyas also are resorting to militancy, which can ultimately become a major security issue for Bangladesh and the region. For a densely populated Bangladesh, with over 170 million population, it is impossible for Bangladesh to allow Rohingyas to integrate in the society and take part in financial activities. Although recently the Biden administration has declared to accept only a few hundred Rohingyas as refugees, in my opinion, this number is nothing in comparison to the gigantic size of Myanmar Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib


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