The Rohingya crisis: Don't be fooled
Bangladesh, overwhelmed by the fast growing Rohingya crisis, seems to have lost way in the wild while Myanmar persistently tries to "fool" it on the corridor of diplomacy and exploit Dhaka's "easy to make believe" reputation.
To back up the above notion, we don't have to seek out evidence beyond the most recent meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali and a Myanmar minister dispatched by Yangon to discuss the Rohingya issue and find a clue to resolve it.
But, it was intended more to show the world that the "military" government headed by democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi is sincere about addressing the crisis that has spilled across the border into Bangladesh -- and apparently to pour water on the heads of Bangladesh leaders, especially the key foreign ministry players.
The meeting on October 2 at the Foreign Ministry in presence of a galaxy of Bangladesh diplomats, officials and junior Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam ended up with broad smile on their faces, as if the ice has started to melt and the "wounds" caused by the Rohingya influx to the bilateral relations, if any, would be soothed soon.
So far, more than half a million Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since August 25 to escape one of history's worst "ethnocide" against Muslim (Rohingyas) minorities in Buddhist-majority Myanmar's western Rakhine state, by the army and radicalized monks aiming to rid Myanmar fully of the Muslims.
Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) said 11,000 Rohingyas (men, women and children) entered Bangladesh on Monday alone as a fresh influx was triggered by renewed and bigger atrocities being perpetrated on the Muslims.
Foreign Minister Ali told reporters on Tuesday that 3,000 Rohingyas have been killed by the Myanmar military since last week of August and the killings continue. Besides, hundreds of Rohingya women have been raped, children beheaded and thrown in the river and their homes burned to ashes in what looked like a scorched earth policy of Suu Kyi's government. Ironically, this Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, but now she has turned into a monster celebrating the deaths and sufferings of the Muslims in the hands of her army!
FM Mahmood Ali on Tuesday also said "Myanmar's proposal to take back the refugees (given at his meeting with Myanmar minister) could be a trick." Ah, he says it now that every other people in Bangladesh had known right from the doorsteps of the "historic" meting. Emerging from the meeting, Ali told reporters that, the decision had been taken to form a Joint Working Group to deal with repatriation of the Rohingyas and that the refugees would go back home after verification of their identities by the Myanmar army.
What a decision! Isn't it giving the loose end of a dispute to the hands of the party that is responsible for the incredible brutality that has been pushing the Rohingya not only out of the homes in Rakhine but from their country.
***There can be no justification of being the guest of the killers unless we have guaranteed freedom to move and meet the people in the worst affected areas.***
We have to deal with this ordeal for years, we suspect, because under no circumstances Myanmar government would like to repatriate and resettle the Rohingyas in the country they have lived for generations but without citizenship and human rights.
The United Nations on Tuesday said, it was "constantly monitoring" the Rohingya crisis, and UNHCR said it was "preparing for another major influx" of Muslims out of Myanmar while our Foreign Minister Bangladesh wants "Joint verifications of refugees" and that UN involvement in this is required.
But, he remained silent when the Myanmar minister at talks with him said the verification would be done by the Myanmar army. Did the minister slip on this critical issue at the meeting or he chose to keep it under the fold for a later session. We thank him for the realization now as the old adage goes "It's better late than never"!
The minister on Tuesday also said a proposal by Myanmar of partial repatriation might be a 'trick' to neutralise the mounting pressure from the international community." Pressure started building on Myanmar about the Rohingya issue only after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the recent UN General Assembly meeting in New York, altered the UN members of the inhuman tortures and sufferings of the Rohingyas in Rakhine, urged them to help the refugees and also press Myanmar to stop the genocide and take the displaced people back home.
But, whether Myanmar would pay heed to this or act upon positively remains in doubt in the light of a previous anti-Muslim carnage in Myanmar in early 1990s. That also forced a large number of Rohingyas into Bangladesh. Under frantic UNHCR's efforts, majority of them went back to Myanmar in 1993 but they mostly returned to Bangladesh in the following years as persecution continued at various times and in various forms.
Myanmar launched the August 25 crackdown on the Muslims to retaliate attack by Rohingya "insurgents" on several police posts in Rakhine, killing some police men ,in October last year. But, the retaliatory actions are far more harrowing and brutal compared to that incident.
Meanwhile, trying to defuse international criticism and thwart pressure, Myanmar took a group of UN officials and diplomats of various countries on a "guided" tour by army helicopters to some areas of Rakhine state about ten days ago. On return, the diplomats said what they saw in there was "unimaginable." Video footages showed a string of Rohingya villages burned to ashes with all their resident having fled or been killed in the ruthless army operation.
Interestingly, and may be in another attempt to bluff, Myanmar has invited Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan to visit Rakhine with a few diplomats to see the prevailing conditions over there.
But, the question is, will it be a guided tour or the visitors be given freedom to move, talk and see whichever places they want to. We guess they will have to travel under army escort, by military helicopter or vehicles and thus be "blindfolded" with their eyes open!
There can be no justification of being the guest of the killers unless we have guaranteed freedom to move and meet the people in the worst affected areas. However, we are a hospitable nation and also enjoy hospitality offered to us by others!
So, if the BD minister and diplomats go to Rakhine they should go on their own. Guided or touted travel would reveal nothing or little to them.
Myanmar generals, the "terrorist" monks, Suu Kyi and her government are all experts in brutality, hiding truth, telling lies and misleading the world with "cosmetic" smiles. They should not be trusted outright or their words believed straightaway, especially in this Rohingya crisis.
They always alleged the Rohingyas as being illegal migrants, tried to push them all into Bangladesh. And they are playing the same trick now.
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Observer