Three Years Of Rohingya Refugee Crisis
BD shows humanitarian spirit but world leaders reticent about taking action against Myanmar
Today we mark the end of the 3rd year of one of the worst manmade humanitarian crisis, orchestrated by a brutal and racially biased military regime to have mercilessly ousted more than a million helpless members of a Muslim minority community in Myanmar. Even though, a number of neighbouring countries have burdened themselves by giving shelter to the Rohingyas, but Bangladesh tops the list, in terms of sheltering the highest number of victims bearing the main brunt of the burder of the refugees.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017 to escape the persecution by Myanmar military regime. Bangladesh and Myanmar singed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017 and on January 16, 2018 Myanmar signed a document on "Physical Arrangement" to facilitate the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. But the Myanmar government reneged on its deal with Bangladesh.
By now we have published, more than enough number of editorials and opinions on the topic of the plight of Rohingyas . Renowned media houses, both print and electronic, have printed and aired innumerable reports, readily available online. Humanitarian activists coupled with renowned politicians, global celebrities have largely condemned the brutal oppression and persecution carried out by the Myanmar military regime. But in reality how has the rest of
the world responded to ease the excruciating pain endured by the Rohingaya community, the target of Myanmar military regime's genocide, mass rape, burning and looting. Ironically Myanmar's current supreme leader Aung San Suu Kyi who won Nobel Peace Prize is not sincere to offer peace to Rohingyas. Denying the rights of the Rohingyas and not addressing the plight of the Rohingya refugees she is going for power again in the general election in November.
The visible trauma of more than a million vulnerable refugees sheltered by Bangladesh hasn't lessened, in fact it has increased. Their future has become undecided and uncertain - they have no identity and given the Myanmar government's hollow promises - it is least-likely that the homeless refugees will be repatriated any time soon with full citizenship rights in Myanmar.
Three years to the day and the crisis enters the fourth year, and now it is time to question the moral and ethical obligations of the international community?
Our point in case, the international community has repeatedly assured Bangladesh to remain engaged in their efforts to put an end to the Rohingya crisis - so that forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals can return to their homeland with safety, security and dignity. Sadly enough, there is no sign or visible attempts to convert the assurance into reality.
World leaders' empty rhetoric and the UN bodies' bureaucratic explanations have cloaked the Rohingya crisis to such a degree that the top 10 humanitarian crises of the world -- listed by the International Rescue Committee -- didn't find it important to list it anywhere among the ten crises.
Ultimately, the solution to the plight of the Rohingyas lies with Myanmar. In order to comprehensively implement the UN Advisory Commission's recommendations on Rakhine State - Myanmar authorities have made a commitment. So far, we haven't witnessed a single act of repatriation realised under that commitment.
The UN too, appears somewhat confused and indecisive from adopting a bold and united stand to compel Myanmar to stop Rohingya persecution and take back all Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. UNHCR, based in Geneva, has clearly stated - Bangladesh's generosity must be acknowledged through continued investment in both Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host communities. But how long Bangladesh can afford to show one sided beneficence?
We, however, have all the reasons to believe, such statement, no matter how appreciating, doesn't actually guarantee a long-term solution for the stateless refugees. Besides, as the crisis is dragging without any visible solution, the amount of international aid relief is plummeting, therefore compelling Bangladesh government to mobilise and allocate whatever limited resources it is left with to provide food, shelter and medicare to the Rohingya refugees now living in camps in Cox's Bazar and Teknaf.
In January, the United Nation's top court ordered Myanmar authorities to prevent genocidal violence. Once more, the call fell on deaf ears, with the UN reporting at least 32 Rohingyas killed in March this year.
And soon arrived the onslaught of the novel Coronavirus, which should have halted the renewed incidents of violence, but it didn't. In fact, an outgoing UN human rights envoy for Myanmar warned of new war crimes there. While the world is occupied with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Myanmar military continues to escalate its assault in Rakhine state, targeting whatever is left of the helpless Muslim minority.
For us, we have become puzzled and perplexed - how come the military backed political regime in Myanmar manages to rule over global conscience?
The international media's role regarding the Myanmar-made crisis is also dissatisfying. Humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Somalia have been frequently occupying their breaking news positions. But the Rohingya crisis is missing. The major economic and military powerhouses must come forward to address the plight of the Rohingyas and the international media must forge a global opinion to resolve the issue.
For us in Bangladesh, it is time that we clearly understand the actual role of the 'International Community'.
Most significantly, the international community is a vague and subjective phrase used in geopolitics and international relations to refer to a nebulous group of people and governments of the world. It does not literally refer to all nations or states in the world. Moreover, the term is typically used to falsely claim the existence of a common point of view towards such matters as specific issues of human rights. That said - it is easily understandable why the 'International Community' is unmoving. And the community must clearly act on its humanitarian obligations.
Yet, we were impressed by the sheer courage to stand up against injustice displayed by the tiny West African country, The Gambia and the island nation The Republic of Maldives in the past year. The global superpower USA, Russia, European and Asian major powers must draw lesson from these two tiny nations that have prioritised the humanitarian cause over shrewd economic and geopolitical calculations.
Nevertheless, it would be an injustice if one does not express sincere gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her prompt and courageous response when the crisis erupted exactly three years ago. Judging the crisis from a pure humanitarian perspective she had immediately jumped into action to ensure food, security, shelter, medication for the homeless refugees. Under her astute diplomatic guidance, Bangladesh has prioritised the Rohingya issue in every single diplomatic forum, council and meetings. It was on the top of her agenda on every single of her state visits and her interaction with world leaders in the past three years. Additionally, in terms of expressing political goodwill to put an end to the crisis, she stands out on the top. Following her instructions her entire administration, Foreign Office, Armed Forces, law enforcing agencies, even the entire nation have engaged their resources and attention to help the Rohingya refugees and resolve their issue.
In the wake of the growing economic and security challenges for Bangladesh, the UN member states must sincerely address the crisis. The major world powers and their lukewarm response and reaction to this disaster have persisted for too long now.
For its part Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have done all that is possible. But that has not been without the attendant costs for Bangladesh on the environmental, human and social levels. It is time to decide a concrete and definitive timeframe where all stakeholders must commit to stick to it. Hope this time the UN and the world powers will respond decisively, sincerely and differently to resolve the Rohingya issue. It is also the time for the UN, EU, OIC, ASEAN, global leaders, Asian powers to have a soul searching whether they are really playing their role to put an end to the most worst humanitarian crisis the mankind is facing currently.
It is not merely Bangladesh's problem or an issue of Rohingyas alone. We should all realise as Martin Luther King Jr said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."