Addressing the Challenges of Rohingya Refugees: Repatriation Issues

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Addressing the Challenges of Rohingya Refugees: Repatriation Issues

By Prof. Maimul Ahsan Khan is PhD. in Jurisprudence, Professor of Law, University of Dhaka; Distinguished Professor of Law & Academic Advisor, Green University of Bangladesh.

Fleeing away from Myanmar, more than a million Rohingya Refugees reside in the temporary shelters in Bangladesh, the most densely populated country of the Earth. It did not happen all of a sudden. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Refugees first were forces to leave Myanmar in 1978. In fact this has started to make an international humanitarian disaster since 1966, just after one year of Indo-Pak war of 1965.

Initially Rohingya Refugees were denied their citizenship and then their religious, ethnic, civil, political and economic rights in their home land. Bangladesh was either busy with its own predicaments or just could not appreciate the gravity of the challenges faced by Rohingyas, who territorially the only foreign Muslim ethnicity adjacent to its territories. Rohingya people were made Refugees intentionally and systematically. Bangladesh has also become paranoid by the challenges of Rohingya Refugees, who were utterly ignored by all international communities, institutions and agencies for long time.

Apparently sudden demise of the Cold War caught the world in surprise and political, economic and military balance maintained by the two super-powers had been destroyed completely. Bangladesh has ignored those international phenomena by taking them as a distant story to be dealt with full seriousness. Diplomacy with Myanmar alone did not bring any positive results for Rohingya Refugees, who are now at the mercy and good will of the people and government of Bangladesh. Omen of international communities are either too late or too little for Rohingya Refugees, who might have to stay in Bangladesh for an indefinite period of time as stateless people. Among all the challenges of addressing the Rohingya refugee issues, repatriation – related challenges are the most difficult and almost insurmountable because of dishonest, insincere and utter disregard to the protection of Rohingya Muslims.

Rohingya Muslims were declared as stateless by their governments backed by the military forces of that country.1 That is already a history of half a century. Most of the Western powers, especially London and Washington, kept a blind eye on that development and took their vested interests in Myanmar either through military or the Aung San Suu Kyi and her cronies. Western powers possibility could not imagine that in the post-Cold War era they would not be able to kept Myanmar under their absolute control. As a result, rivalry between India and China over the territories of Myanmar has surfaced gradually with a significant resistance toward Western influence in the region. President Barak Obama tried his level best to manage the situation, but his failure was quite significant unnoticed by the Western media and observers.

“Tom Malinowski, the Obama-era Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, told me he had warned Suu Kyi that “extremist groups will eventually provoke a confrontation as a means of recruiting fighters for violent attacks” and, when they eventually do, “Burma has no defense against groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.” He said he also told Suu Kyi the Burmese military “will willingly fall for that trap [of responding with force against civilian populations], because it can use the ensuing confrontation to rally Buddhists to its side, and thus preserve its authority.”

The Aung San Suu Kyi government initially tried to claim that it had been driving out illegal Bengal immigrants from their country and then we found that even the Kofi Anan report also did not mention the word “Rohingy”. Suu Kyi also did not use the word “Rohingya” despite the fact that she mentioned other ethnic minorities in her country by name. She termed the Rohingyas as “those who are now in Bangladesh” and claimed that she does not know why these people fled away from Myanmar.

From August 25, 2017 to the mid of October, 2017 more than 6,00,000 Rohingya people have crossed into Bangladesh as recorded by the UN agencies. It was widely accepted fact that the Suu Kyi government killed 3,000 Rohingyas and burned 284 villages of the Muslim minority people in Rakhaine alone within a few days. A UN report has established: “The brutal attacks against the Rohingyas in northern Rakhine state have been well-organised, coordinated and systematic, with the intent of not only driving the population out of Myanmar but preventing them from returning to their homes.   

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