Rohingya crisis needs quick solution before it turns to militancy

Faruque Ahmed
As the Myanmar military forces are engaged in a ruthless cleansing operation of the Rohingya Muslims from early November killing people, raping women and torching their homes forcing them to abandon villages. As a result an exodus has ensued and frightened Rohingyas are sneaking into Bangladesh in search of safety.
An estimated over 10,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh till last Monday through the porous borders largely divided by Naf River to escape death and torture. More are coming each day while terrorism experts fear many may turn towards militancy if the international community does not saved them from total destruction in the hands of the Myanmar army.
There is no sign of ending the state run cleansing operation of the ethnic minority in Myanmar which has been recurring periodically over the past decades making Bangladesh its immediate victim.
It is a genocide
It appears that Myanmar government is committed to evict the Rohingyas from their ancestral homes where they are living over the centuries and since they are Muslims, Myanmar government is systematically pushing them into Bangladesh downloading their domestic ethnic crisis on to its neighbour adding to Dhaka’s own numerous domestic political crises.
What appears quite strange is that the international community is totally unmoved by the genocide and are silently watching the exodus of the hapless and persecuted citizens from their own land. Time is passing ASEAN countries must quickly intervene to save the endangered Rohingyas as the Myanmar soldiers are killing them and pushing them out of villages to cross into Bangladesh.
The west and the UN made only soft protests so far showing their double standard as protector of human rights and also not to make the Suu Kyi government hostile. They are seemingly trying to woo Myanmar, as part of their policy, for getting more business contracts and gain some geo-political concessions in the country. Perhaps, they are concerned that any further push may prompt the Myanmar leadership to tilt more towards China.
The Rohingya crisis is building over the last few decades. At first the Myanmar government lent support to the Buddhist extremists’ claim that Rohingyas are not nationals of Myanmar; they are Bengalis and their home is Bangladesh. It flared ethnic tension since 1991, as a section of media report said, when the military backed Myanmar government undertook a policy of torture and eviction of the Rohingyas on any flimsy ground.  It turned into a civil war in 2012 when Myanmar government took away the Rohingya’s right to vote making them stateless people.
The fights continued ever since and flared again in a big way when on October 9 a number of Myanmar border guards were killed by militants; purported to be Rohingya militants though there is no clear evidence about it.
Bangladesh in a dilemma
In the new offensive against Rohingyas, Myanmar soldiers are “killing men, slaughtering children, raping women”, says John McKissick of the UN refugee agency in Bangladesh. Myanmar is seeking the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya minority in its territory, a senior UN official has told the BBC.
Rohingyas have been left alone to their fate as abandoned by the international community and their condition can only be compared now as many say with the treatment meted out to the Jews by Hitler’s Nazi Germany. It is unthinkable under Suu Kyi’s government, who is a decorated Nobel Laureate for peace but her government is wiping out an entire people as she keeps silent.
It appears that Bangladesh government is in a fix how to handle the crisis because opening the border to Rohingyas means allowing Myanmar government to continue the mass killing to force people to abandon their land. On the other hand keeping the border close as people are dying is also inhuman when they are victim of Myanmar army’s terrible crime.
Myanmar believes that since Rohingyas are Muslims, Bangladesh as a Muslim country would not show its back to their plight. In the process the entire Rohingya people, now estimated at 1.1 million may be deported to Bangladesh to get rid of its own ethnic trouble. It is a clear hostile act and contrary to all international convention and human rights laws.
The debate whether or not Bangladesh should open the border is heating up in the country when there is no sign that Myanmar government is ending its expulsion drives.
International community is pressurizing Bangladesh to open its border but surprisingly without putting any such pressure on Myanmar to end the genocide. Needless to say Bangladesh is giving shelter to people who have been able to enter Bangladesh and our border guards are also showing restraint.
West is silent
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Bangladesh is giving all humanitarian assistance and medicare to the displaced people but it must be treated on temporary basis. These people must go back and Bangladesh is looking for meaningful dialogue with Myanmar government on this issue.
It appears that Muslims are victim of hatred all over and Myanmar is pursuing a policy of discrimination against Rohingyas based on religious identity, language and ethnic origin. Myanmar has so many other ethnic minorities fighting the central government on regional issues but Muslims are the main target of the country’s military.
Thailand has also a substantial Muslim population in the south bordering with Malaysia and part of them is running a low key insurgency against the Bangkok government for autonomy. But the Thai military is not pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing like the Myanmar regime.
Rohingyas already constitute a big community in Bangladesh who sneaked into southeastern part of the country in Tekhnaf region over the past 25 years escaping persecution of Myanmar government.
Officially we have over 32,000 refugees in rehabilitation camps in the country but their actual number is around 5 lakhs as disclosed by the home minister. They have set up homes in the Tekhnaf region on Bangladesh side of Myanmar border. Media report said a Rohingya man who settled there 25 years ago now has a family of 25 including six children. Another has a family of 15.
Any more Rohingya refugees are feared to be a big source of domestic troubles in Bangladesh but humanitarian cause also can’t be ignored either.
Meanwhile an International Commission set up few months back and co-chaired by Suu Kyi and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appeared to have lost the drive to establish peace. Kofi Annan made a trip to Rakhine State in September but Buddhist activists held rallies at that time calling him to leave the area. Even lawmakers of Suu Kyi’s own political party tabled proposal in parliament calling for ban on involving foreigners in such crisis resolution process.
Region’s volatility may rise
Meanwhile, terrorism experts believe that unless the crisis is resolved quickly and if the international community keeps away from playing its role to convince the Myanmar government to end the crisis and take back its displaced people, Rohingyas may slowly join militant groups making the region more volatile.
The Hindustan Times in a recent editorial said world has enough refugee crises and should try to avoid making another that may destabilize the region. It has rightly said there are signs that Rohingyas are drawing closer to militant groups and to avoid it concerted efforts by ASEAN countries and India must move with Bangladesh to convince Myanmar to resolve the crisis.
Bangladesh government has already protested the Myanmar government action calling its ambassador to foreign office in Dhaka.  Meanwhile a diplomatic drive is at work to take the issue to global community to seek a global solution to the crisis. But weak diplomacy and poor leadership apparently is slowing down any visible outcome.
India appears to be extending help to Bangladesh on the issue calling for dialogue and we believe it may bring results at some point.
Source: Weekly Holiday


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