Ongoing clashes with the Arakan Army are further escalating tensions in Rakhine State

Myanmar, Rohingya, Muslim minority, Rohingya refugees, Naga Min, Dragon King, Rakhine

We live in a world where people are forced to leave their homes on account of harsh circumstances such as war, violence, or environmental issues. Relocating from one’s residence or homeland is not a testament to greatness, but sometimes it becomes necessary for individuals to ensure the safety of their own and loved ones. Rohingya refugees are facing a similar plight, as they are part of one of the most oppressed minority communities worldwide. As an ethnic group and Muslim minority in primarily Buddhist Myanmar, they have faced a campaign of violence and persecution, forcing hundreds of thousands to seek sanctuary in neighboring Bangladesh. In this case, the world community has strongly condemned the atrocities done against them, with several human rights organizations describing them as ethnic cleansing and genocide.

It is an undeniable truth that people all around the world show compassion and solidarity towards refugees who are in desperate need of safety and security. Bangladesh, despite its own challenges in terms of population and socio-economic conditions, has set a remarkable example by offering refuge to more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees. However, it is crucial to recognize that Bangladesh confronts various hurdles and intricacies that span social, environmental, legal, and economic aspects. Although the government’s endeavors to tackle the refugee crisis deserve admiration, it is disheartening that concrete advancements have not been made yet.

Now let’s explore Myanmar’s past. An operation known as Dragon King (Naga Min) was conducted in Myanmar during 1977–78 with the objective of clearing out Rakhine and compelling the Rohingya population to abandon their ancestral land. Unfortunately, the operation successfully achieved its objectives, resulting in the substantial and sudden displacement of countless individuals. Following this operation, tens of thousands of Rohingya sought shelter in Bangladesh, although a considerable portion of them were eventually sent back, and tensions were temporarily alleviated. Despite this, there have been multiple occurrences of Rohingya individuals crossing the border into Bangladesh, particularly in the early 1990s. However, the most significant wave of Rohingya refugees began in August 2017 due to internal conflicts within Myanmar. This led to a massive influx of Rohingya seeking refuge in neighboring countries, including Bangladesh.

The tension between Bangladesh and Myanmar resulted in the signing of a repatriation agreement in November 2017. However, progress was stalled in 2018 and 2019 due to various complexities, despite efforts to move the process forward. In January 2021, a virtual meeting took place with China’s mediation, raising hopes for progress. However, the rehabilitation process was abruptly interrupted by a military coup in Myanmar that year. Despite preparations for the return of Rohingya, another virtual dialogue in January 2022 failed to produce any positive outcomes. Bangladesh has maintained a sense of hope over the past six years, eagerly anticipating the return of refugees. Unfortunately, the actions of Myanmar’s government have not aligned with this optimism, resulting in an unresolved situation that continues to persist.

In Myanmar, the military junta continues to hold onto power despite facing widespread protests. Ongoing clashes with the Arakan Army are further escalating tensions in Rakhine State, adding to the existing political unrest. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says, about 600,000 Rohingya are effectively restricted to living in Rakhine State, subject to systematic abuses that amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid, persecution, and deprivation of liberty. This situation is deepening instability and exacerbating humanitarian issues in the region, underscoring the ongoing challenges in the fight for democracy and the ethnic rights of Rohingyas.

In addition, it is extremely doubtful that the Junta administration of Myanmar is unlikely to easily accept Rohingya repatriation in the current turmoil scenarios. Nevertheless, in an effort to find a peaceful resolution to this issue, the government of Bangladesh has engaged in diplomatic efforts with various countries on an international scale. These countries include neighboring India and Myanmar’s ally, China. Unfortunately, Bangladesh has gotten no meaningful support from those countries. This lack of support can be attributed, in part, to the strategic location of Bangladesh and the economic interests that China and India have in Myanmar.

Genocide is considered one of the most serious crimes under international law, and the Gambia filed a case at the ICJ on November 11, 2019 focused on allegations of genocide committed by the military of Myanmar against the Rohingya population. However, progress in the case has been stagnant due to the perceived inefficiency of the ICJ. Despite the efforts made by Gambia, the resolution of this pressing issue has been hindered by the slow pace of proceedings within the ICJ.

It is abundantly clear that the UN Security Council cannot consider military intervention as a feasible course of action due to the significant presence and influence of Russia and China. Additionally, the UNHCR’s capacity to address such issues is limited. In cases where a government refuses to grant citizenship to its own people and actively strips them of their citizenship, the UNHCR’s role becomes futile. In order to repatriate the Rohingyas, Bangladesh must first navigate the challenging diplomatic landscape with Myanmar. The Bangladesh government has consistently emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution rather than military confrontation. However, the Myanmar government’s arrogant behavior suggests otherwise. Historically, Myanmar has been governed by the military, but recent times have witnessed a shift in the general population’s attitude towards the displaced Rohingyas, particularly following the military coup.

In light of the current circumstances, there is a widespread belief that Bangladesh’s foreign policy needs to be reassessed and adjusted accordingly. Maintaining bargaining strength with Myanmar’s anti-government NUG (National Unity Government) is another imperative for Bangladesh. Currently, the question is whether or not the Myanmar government’s promises alone are reliable in the near future. The civil society in Bangladesh, in addition to governmental actions, must contemplate these matters.

It is important to emphasize that military confrontation should be avoided at all costs, and instead, the issue should be resolved through diplomatic means. By engaging with Myanmar’s major trading partners, such as China, India, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia, diplomatic pressure can be exerted to facilitate the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Efforts should be directed towards ensuring a safe and sustainable return for the refugees once conditions in Myanmar are conducive. Additionally, international cooperation and support are crucial to ensuring the long-term well-being of Rohingya refugees.

To say it another way, the situation regarding Rohingya refugees is complex and sensitive. The government of Bangladesh has been actively seeking solutions to the Rohingya refugee crisis through various channels for years. However, the challenge of repatriation remains unresolved, posing a significant burden on a densely populated country with limited resources. Addressing the needs of the Rohingya refugees is crucial, considering the environmental, social, and economic implications for both Bangladesh and Myanmar.


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