• Friday, Jul 10, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:38 am

Is public opinion turning?

  • Published at 12:38 am August 27th, 2019
The hill cutting and deforestation near Camp no 20 in Balukhali, Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, as seen on Sunday, to clear the way for more Rohingya refugee camps, poses a twofold threat: one to the environment, and another to the refugees themselves as these hills become more vulnerable to landslides Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Government appears helpless, at least for now

When the Rohingyas streamed into Bangladesh two years ago, fleeing the pogrom against them by the Myanmar military, sympathy for their plight was high in Bangladesh.

When the PM said a nation of 170 million could feed one million more in need, her words echoed the public sentiment, and were widely applauded.

Now, two years on, the tide appears to be turning when it comes to Bangladeshi public opinion, and impatience and anger is on the rise.

This negative feeling has been further fueled by a second aborted attempt to send them back on Thursday.

But this time round a section of the local population do not buy the argument put forward by the Rohingyas that conditions are not conducive for their return. Many now suggest that since the Rohingyas are “living a comfortable life in Bangladesh,” they are refusing to go.

Some now even demand that the government send them back forcibly. There are also accusations of diplomatic ineptitude against the government.

For the last few days the issue has been a hot topic of discussion on social media, restaurants, social gatherings, and even at tea stalls.

The Rohingyas had already lost the sympathy of the host communities in Cox’s Bazar. Trouble between the locals and the Rohingya had also been on the rise; now, patience seems to be thinning around the country.

Today’s scenario is a far cry from two years back when the host communities and people from across the country opened their hearts to the persecuted people from Rakhine.  

People argue that if the Rohingyas are not sent back sooner rather than later, they will create danger for the country. They may have a point. This is something that has been discussed from the beginning.

So, what is the solution? In short, the answer is: No solution in sight.

There are a few issues that need to be put in perspective.

From the point of view of the public, there are many reasons for them to impatient and angry. They are also unhappy with the government for its apparent failure to persuade its allies to back its position..

As far as the sheltered Rohingyas are concerned, they have repeatedly been oppressed by their own government and, given the trauma they had gone through, it is understandable for them to be skeptical about the conditions in Rakhine.

It is highly unlikely the Rohingyas, one of the most persecuted communities in the world, will agree to return until there is an international mechanism that can verify and later certify that the condition is right for their return.

In respect of the government, quite frankly, it is in a rather helpless situation. As of now, there is little it can do apart from trying to persuade the international actors to put pressure on Myanmar to compel it to take back its own people.

There comes a time when one has nothing to do but wait and hope. The government is going through that phase now. The helplessness has, perhaps, gotten worse after the Chinese ambassador in Myanmar assured its army chief of Beijing’s continued support for Naypyidaw.   

Certainly, the government is under pressure due to the people’s sentiments. Then again, it would be unwise for the government to do something that might spoil the image created by the sterling work it has been doing for some time on the issue.

It will have to continue trying to engage with the international community to find a solution to the protracted crisis. This is the only way out.

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