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Problem lies in Myanmar, victim is Bangladesh!

Amin Al  Rasheed

Amin Al Rasheed

Tue, 6 Feb 24

Hearing screams and cries of people outside, you opened the door and found some armed men trying to kill some innocent people. They plead for your assistance, asking for water and seeking refuge. In this moment, what will you do? If you are extremely selfish and merciless, you will close the door and stay inside, playing music loudly so you can't hear the cries of the distressed people outside. However, if you are humane, you will provide food and water to those desperate individuals, offer them shelter, and provide assistance to help them survive.

However, after some days, it was observed that those whom you had provided shelter, food, and water due to humanitarian reasons became the cause of your trouble. It became a recurring scenario where such acts of shelter and assistance were being taken advantage of regularly. In other words, you repeatedly became a victim of such incidents where you were not at fault yourself. Your responsibility is solely for humanity! If you fail to show that humanity, the whole world will remind you of 1971, when you too were once a refugee. You sought shelter in another country along with millions of people.

Due to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, Bangladesh is repeatedly finding itself in such dire situations. While their presence has created economic, environmental, and some social crises over the years, this time the impact is directly hitting the lives of the people in Bangladesh. For several days now, the border areas, particularly in Cox's Bazar are tensed. In Myanmar, clashes are ongoing between the government forces and the insurgent Arakan Army. Mortar shells and bullets are crossing into Bangladesh. It has been reported that two Bangladeshis, including a woman, were killed due to mortar shells fired from Myanmar. A child has been injured. This incident occurred in the Jalpaitoli village of ward number four of Ghumdhum in the afternoon around 3 o'clock last Monday.

The deceased person's name is Nabi Hossen. He was a resident of Ukhiya Kutupalong No. 8 Rohingya camp. The question arises: how did the residents of the Rohingya camp end up at the scene of the incident? Do they have permission to leave the camp? This way, if they venture outside the camp, they can easily merge into the main stream of Bangladesh if they wish. Many Rohingya have not only merged into the mainstream of Bangladesh but have also obtained national identity cards and passports. Such news has also been reported in the media.

The issue was discussed with Dr. Rahman Nasiruddin, a professor at Chittagong University and a Rohingya researcher. He says that Rohingya cannot go outside the camps legally; however, practically, there are no restrictions on their movement outside the camps. If Rohingya wish to come to Cox's Bazar city, they must face two checkpoints. However, they can move freely between Ukhiya and Teknaf without any restrictions.

So, the question arises: how many hundreds of thousands or millions of Rohingya have merged into the mainstream of Bangladesh so far? Do the government or any international organizations have statistics on this, or are they working with Rohingya on such matters? In a country where Bangladesh itself is struggling to manage its population density, if another stateless group of people comes and further increases that number, it is essential to assess how Bangladesh may become a victim in the long run.

In light of the recent incidents at the Bandarban border, where a strong claim is being made, and the government also asserts that no one will be allowed to enter Bangladesh from inside Myanmar under any circumstances. However, media reports are stating, "400 Chakma people are awaiting entry at the restless border." According to the news report citing the statement of Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, the Commissioner of Refugee Relief and Repatriation (RRRC) in Cox's Bazar, nearly 400 members of the Chakma community from Myanmar are waiting to enter Bangladesh amidst the ongoing conflict between the two sides. Alongside, some Rohingya are also stranded at the border. This is because the conflict has led to a food crisis among the residents along the border. Their lives are also at risk.

Here too, the question of humanity becomes significant. If the neighboring countries do not provide shelter to the distressed individuals, and as a result, if those people die, it will become a source of pain for the people of Bangladesh, who would have once been refugees themselves. Furthermore, if these individuals are not repatriated after being given shelter, it will become a cause of problem for Bangladesh. Being in this dilemma, it is very difficult to make any intermediate decision while keeping one's own sense of humanity awakened on one side and considering the long-term dangers of one's own country on the other.

The only solution to this situation lies in international diplomacy. Myanmar's governance structure and the type of people who hold power there are not inclined towards humanity when it comes to the Rohingya issue. They do not even recognize Rohingyas as citizens of Myanmar. Attempts to ethnically wipe them out have been going on for years. In the face of repeated persecution, they have sought refuge in Bangladesh. However, the reality is that these 11-12 lakh Rohingya have become a terrible load for Bangladesh.

It is an age-old argument whether the international community, particularly the role of the United Nations, has the capacity to address such persistent discrimination in Myanmar and ensure recognition of citizenship and human rights for the Rohingya. The bigger question is, the kind of state Myanmar has and the kind of government that is in the country's power, do they care about the United Nations or any other international organization? If not, will the United Nations declare war against them? That's not the solution either. Because war primarily means the loss of innocent lives. Therefore, to solve this problem, it is essential to engage with those who have control over Myanmar.

Myanmar heeds China's words. Bangladesh has a friendly relationship with China. Just as there is significant investment from China in Myanmar, there is also investment in Bangladesh. This means that China acts as a common friend for both Myanmar and Bangladesh. This has also been said for a long time: there is a diplomatic issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue, and China can mediate. However, there are no visible results. It means the problem lies elsewhere.

Regardless of where the problem lies, Bangladesh will repeatedly become a victim due to Myanmar's own issues, that cannot happen. Bangladesh doesn't have huge territories like the United States, Canada, China, or India where 10-12 lakh people can be accommodated in one corner. Here, population density is higher in both urban and rural areas compared to most countries in the world. Additionally, the establishment of camps to accommodate Rohingya refugees has led to extensive damage to the environment and biodiversity of the entire Cox's Bazar region, which cannot be quantified merely in terms of money.

Therefore, to solve the Rohingya crisis, they could be repatriated to their own country, Myanmar, or sent to a financially stable third country. Alongside this, measures need to be taken to ensure that no problems arise within Bangladesh due to Myanmar's insurgency suppression campaign along the border. In this endeavor, it's not only China but also India, a regional power, that needs to be involved.

Author: Current Affairs Editor, Nexus Television.

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