As many as 400,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar in the last few weeks, while thousands of IDPs (internally displaced persons) are running helter-skelter in “no man’s land” on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, with a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding along the border. The Bangla Tribune portal hosted its latest Bangla Tribune Boithoki episode styled “Rohingya Crisis and Humanity” in its office in Dhaka on Thursday with a pool of experts and academics shedding light on the crisis. Here we briefly present what the discussants said about the world’s one of the worst humanitarian situations and the apparent reluctance of the neighbouring countries to the crisis
Myanmar does not want to recognise Rohingyas as its citizens
Speaking at the discussion, former foreign affairs secretary Munshi Fayez said the Myanmar government does not want recognise the Rohingyas as the country’s citizens; rather, they gave them a different identity: “Muslims of Arakan.”
He said: “Myanmar is active with various diplomatic maneuvers for its own brand of democracy. The military junta has been trying to hold on to power. Myanmar tries to erase the word ‘Rohingya.
“We need to think about the humanitarian crisis now and understand the current situation step by step. Bangladesh is directly affected by the crisis. There is a democratic crisis in Myanmar, but we are worried much about the current humanitarian crisis.”
Suu Kyi silent for political objectives
Tanzimuddin Khan, an associate professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, said that though people have high expectations from Aung San Suu Kyi over the Rohingya crisis as she is a democratic leader of Myanmar, Suu Kyi has been silent due to her political objectives.
“We can call Myanmar’s brand of democracy a ‘managed democracy’. The current government is in power with support of the military… Also, the Suu Kyi-led party has its own ‘voting politics.’ She cannot do anything overlooking the objectives,” he said.
“An ideological divide was evident during 1960s and 70s. In addition to the divide, economic interests are currently playing a vital party in what is going on in the country. So, we need to understand whether China and India are focusing on them [since they are apparently reluctant over the crisis],” Tanzimuddin said.
The personality traits Suu Kyi once had are now absent in her, he added.
Keeping Rohingyas at a designated place is a big challenge
Bangla Tribune Head of News Harun Ur Rashid said: “…if they [refugees] live scattered over a wide area, it will be difficult for humanitarian workers to provide them with services and identify them. So, the major challenge for us is to make sure that they are living at a designated space.
“Bangladesh has already started a registration process for the Rohingyas, and digital technology is being used in the registration process. But, the process will get complicated if the refugees live scattered,” he added.
Harun also said it has to be ensured that they would not face uncertainty again over their citizenship rights if they ever get the chance to go back to their country.
Rohingyas are fleeing in terror of lives
Shariful Hasan, the head of migration programme at Brac, an international development organisation, said Rohingyas are fleeing their motherland in terror of their lives.
“Like refugees of other countries, Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine to other countries including Bangladesh because they are certain that they will be killed by army men in their country if they stay there,” he said.
Shariful said the total number of refugees in the world is over 60m and among them, Rohingyas are in the most deplorable conditions.
“Some 2.2m Rohingyas are living in different countries with over one million in Bangladesh and 0.6m in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
The Rohingya problem is currently the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. It is a big burden to Bangladesh, too. Where to accommodate the growing number of refugees and what to feed them are among the challenges facing Bangladesh, the Brac official express concerns.
“How will they [Rohingya refugees] be sent back? Will Myanmar take them back home?” Shariful asked.
He said it is the responsibility of the international community to send them back to their homesteads in Myanmar.
‘We did not get two of our neighbours on our side’
Security analyst Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid said though Bangladesh had been dealing with the Rohingya refugees with utmost generosity, two of its neighbours – India and China – did not come forward to help it out in such a moment.
He said: “The Western countries are active, trying to deal with the crisis. We wanted to see two of our regional neighbours (India and China) on our side with regard to the issue but to no avail.”
“We are hopeful that India and China will stand by the persecuted Rohingya people.”
Laying emphasis on a permanent solution to the crisis, the veteran military officer said implementation of the recommendations put forward by the Kofi Annan Commission, is a must to end the violence.
Rohingyas’ plight indescribable
Bangla Tribune special correspondent Sheikh Shahriar Zaman, who visited refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, shared his experience at the event.
He said: “In July, we came to know that Rohingyas are crossing the border and entering Bangladesh. We contacted Border Guard Bangladesh, which told us that the border has been sealed off. Rohingyas started to arrive in Bangladesh in small groups in the last month after violence flared up in Rakhine.
“We went to visit the bordering areas in Cox’s Bazar and found 10,000 to 12,000 Rohingyas stuck in no man’s land, trying to trespass into Bangladesh.”
As the Myanmar military’s crackdown on them intensifies, the Rohingyas started to arrive in large numbers through the Ukhiya and Kutupalong borders, he added.
“They have nowhere to go or to live. I saw the refugees struggle for shelter and survival. Their plight cannot be described in words, if not witnessed,” Shahriar said.
“There was a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and Kofi Annan on August 24, when over 100 people lost their lives in Rakhine. Many thought that the meeting would get a massive coverage in the global media but it did not, though the violence was covered,” he said.
All photos were taken by Sazzad Hossain