On September the 12th, teams from the UN’s Refugee Agency and Development Program gained permission from Myanmar to investigate 23 villages in the Rakhine State, where the Rohingya people lived. Concurrently on the same day, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque announced that the Rohingya were not welcome into Bangladesh as permanent settlers, stating that they belonged in Myanmar. Currently, 700 000 Rohingya people live in Bangladesh, having fled Myanmar during the brutal persecution in 2017.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi, Haque’s announcement echoes that of Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, who in an interview with Al Jazeera last month expressed that the stateless position of Rohingya people was “not an issue we should be dealing with,” citing that Bangladesh was already the most densely populated country on Earth. In November 2017, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on a repatriation process for the Rohingya people. However, the process has not been put into practice on a significant scale, with continued resistance from Myanmar’s government and people. In an DW website interview with Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief, and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam, both Bangladesh and Myanmar have stated that ‘ball was in (the other country’s hands)’ to speed up the repatriation process. According to Al Jazeera, the Rohingya people themselves are reluctant to return to their former homes after the bloodshed in 2017, which killed a presumed 40 000 people. The UN’s investigation in the coming weeks, along with the ICC’s recent ruling prosecuting Burmese heads of military responsible for the campaign, could allow for crimes which have been documented to be brought to justice, as hoped by UN Special Adviser Adama Dieng. However, the investigation does not address the looming issue of potential conflict between Bangladesh and Myanmar which is bringing the issue of Rohingya resettlement and citizenship access to an impasse.
The Rohingya have long been a persecuted people in Myanmar, considered illegal immigrants despite their presence in the country for centuries. The UN has called them ‘the world’s most persecuted minority.’ In 2016, Rohingya militants committed a series of violent attacks against the Burmese security forces. The actions of the militants led to an intense, horrific campaign against the Rohingya people by the Burmese military. Accounts of gang rape, murder, and torture were reported to the world media, as the Rohingya now remain displaced people, many living in dangerous, flood-prone locations in Bangladesh.
According to the DW website, It is estimated that up to 70% of Rohingya are illiterate. Opportunities for employment, healthcare and education are low, and may become increasingly scarce as they remain without citizenship and subsequently access to such rights. Bangladesh is unable and increasingly unwilling to support the Rohingya, whilst international funding towards the crisis is on the decline. The actions of the militant members continue to negatively affect the Rohingya people at large, such as recent massacres of Hindu villages in Myanmar in May, which was carried out by the terrorist organization Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The plight of the Rohingya is a complicated and unfortunate one, with thousands of innocent people being punished for the actions of a few, as well as the ineffective and ruthless decisions of various heads of state.
The future facing the Rohingya is a bleak one, but it can be solved through effective goals and unity among international nations. International organisations and governments need to exert their influence upon these two nations, by continuing to provide aid to the Bangladeshi organizations housing Rohingya refugees, as well as working with Myanmar to decrease narratives of prejudice, and instead work towards increasing opportunities and tolerance towards the Rohingya.
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