From its past experience Bangladesh understands that Myanmar won't take back all of its forcibly evicted citizens called Rohingyas and also many of the persecuted people fleeing atrocities in Rakhine state may not agree to return to their ancestral home fearing renewed atrocities. The support extended to Myanmar by India, China and Russia, in its deadly drive against Rohingya militants, makes it to presume that the Rohingya issue will linger as these three 'so-called friendly countries' of Bangladesh have sided with its adversary. Myanmar has been giving the trio all the business and investment opportunities worth billions of US dollars over the last several years. They have invested in infrastructure, including deep sea-port, highways, energy and minerals. However, among the three, India has the smallest stake in Myanmar with investment in 23 approved projects totalling USD 750 million. India has also opened a branch of its State Bank in Yangon. Trade is also expected to increase in 2017 with the completion of transport and connectivity projects between India and Myanmar. As the repatriation of Rohingyas is presumed to be lingering Bangladesh is preparing to accommodate nearly a million of Rohingyas for a longer time. It thinks the repatriation process if starts at all, is likely to be cumbersome as Myanmar said last week it would take back Rohingyas from Bangladesh only after proper scrutiny of every individual.
*Media reported last week that, the UN suppressed its own report that
criticised its strategy in Myanmar and warned that the global body was
ill-prepared to deal with the imminent Rohingya crisis.*
Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali while briefing the diplomats at the State Guest House Padma in Dhaka, said on Monday that Myanmar offered a Rohingya repatriation proposal based on verification of their identities under the 1992 joint statement was unrealistic. As the proposed repatriation is poised to take a longer time Bangladesh said last week that it would set up the world's largest refugee camp to concentrate some 800,000 Rohingyas living in 23 temporary shelters close to the Myanmar border, to a 3,000-acre forest land at Kutupalong in Cox's Bazar district. Nearly 550,000 Rohingyas mostly Muslims and hundreds of Hindus fled to Bangladesh from Buddhist-dominated Myanmar since 25 August and the government of Bangladesh and the United Nations agencies facing immense challenges providing them shelters, foods, healthcare and other essentials. Until Sunday last among the new arrivals there were nearly 19,000 pregnant women and 43,000 sick or injured children, including around 7,000 orphans as most of their parents were killed by Myanmar soldiers during indiscriminate raids on the Rohingya villages. However, thousands of Rohingyas are still crossing the border everyday as the Myanmar military continues to burn down more villages in northern Rakhine state. The plan to set up the largest camp was mooted as the authorities in Bangladesh and the different agencies of the United Nations fear that Myanmar will not take the evicted people back in a short span of time. Rather, it will try to make the repatriation process longer in the name of verification of particulars of Rohingyas. Altogether 800,000-plus Rohingya Muslims, including 550,000 new arrivals crossed into Bangladesh, fleeing atrocities in Myanmar over the last one and a half month. However, according to the unofficial estimates, with the new comers there are some one million Rohingyas now living in Bangladesh, and at least half of them had crossed into Bangladesh in phases after 2012 communal commotion in the Rakhine State. Moreover, there are thousands others remnants of the Rohingyas who had fled to Bangladesh in droves in 1978 and 1991/92 exoduses. Of the remnants of 250,000 Rohingyas of 1992 influx, some 35,000 are still living in two official camps at Kutupalong and Nayapara jointly run by Bangladesh government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The repatriation that started in late 1992 took more than five years to complete and at the last stage some nearly 30,000 refused to return to Myanmar in fear of persecution. By 2017, the population of these two camps increased over 35,000. Meanwhile, a top United Nations (UN) official engaged in Dhaka suggested the plan to build the world's largest refugee camp for 800,000 plus Rohingya Muslims might turn dangerous because overcrowding could heighten the risks of deadly diseases spreading quickly. He suggested while taking to a global news agency that, the country should instead look for new sites to build more camps. But, he did not suggest how the over populated Bangladesh with financial and territorial constraints would find out the new sites. He failed to understand that, Bangladesh has no capacity to accommodate such a large mass of evicted people from Myanmar in any other districts across the country where all spaces are filled up by teeming millions. Even the Chittagong Hill Tracts have been saturated with tribal community and Bangalee settlers. Relocation of Rohingyas in other places in Bangladesh except the areas close to the border, may trigger a fresh ethnic and sectarian problems in Bangladesh. Bangladesh thinks that, there is no alternative to complete repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar or relocation of the evicted people to other scantily populated countries of the world. But the UN official or the world body had no alternative plan to rehabilitate the evicted Rohingyas. Meanwhile, the UN has been largely criticised as it failed to act upon a report of an independent expert it commissioned before the Myanmar military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine state. Media reported last week that, the UN suppressed its own report that criticised its strategy in Myanmar and warned that the global body was ill-prepared to deal with the imminent Rohingya crisis. The report, which was commissioned by the UN itself, and compiled in May last, predicted a "serious deterioration" in the next six months following its submission. The report also warned that, the Myanmar security forces would be "heavy-handed and indiscriminate" in dealing with the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar. But, the UN failed to take appropriate steps, which emboldened Myanmar to intensify ethnic cleansing, resulting in a full scale 'genocide' followed by an unprecedented exodus. The latest meeting of the UN Security Council also failed to come up with a solution to the Rohingya issue. However, the security council and the UN General Assembly separately and the UN Secretary General Antnio Guterres individually and several countries, international rights groups, non-governmental organisations, including corruption watchdogs called upon the army-backed Myanmar government and its State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to restrain. But the controversial Nobel Peace Prize Winner is yet to budge, despite condemnation worldwide. However, things are changing fast as in a latest development Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined European Council President Union Donald Tusk and European Commission President Claude Juncker in New Delhi on Friday asking Myanmar to implement the Kofi Annan Commission report over Rohingya issue and work with Bangladesh to repatriate them to the Rakhine province. It is likely that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping Presidents of Russian and China respectively may join other world leaders soon to create pressure on Myanmar to stop its scorched earth policy of ethnic cleansing.
Nizam Ahmed is Business Editor, The Daily Observer