Bangladesh must pursue a more aggressive, innovative approach to force Myanmar to take its people back
While there is some apparent success in relation to the relocation of persecuted Rohingyas to Bhashan Char, the progress with respect to repatriation, the ultimate objective, and the only solution, is not visible.
Everything possible must be done to ensure the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine, Myanmar.
The government effort to relocate 100,000 out of more than a million Rohingyas to decongest the camps in Cox's Bazar has finally started to pay off.
This is happening after years of fending off objections of the UN, international community, and INGOs. Eventually, the government decided to go ahead with the relocation without taking the UN, international community, and INGOs onboard with the money from the exchequer.
Time will tell how effective the costly relocation process, including the development of the island at a staggering cost of Tk3,100 crore, will be. It can be hoped that the movers and shakers must have thought long and hard before coming to the decision.
There is also a view among many that relocation and repatriation cannot go together. They argue that the utterance of the word relocation affects repatriation. It may also send a wrong signal to Myanmar about the repatriation.
Therefore, the relocation must not be allowed to shift the utmost priority from the repatriation. The government will have to make crystal clear to everybody concerned, especially Myanmar, that the relocation is a very temporary measure to give the Rohingyas, who suffered way too much in the hands of their own government, some comfort. Moreover, this very message must be repeated time and again.
Based on the experience of the past, one thing can be said for sure that Myanmar is not willing to take its people back and Bangladesh's diplomatic effort so far has not been able to compel Myanmar to do so.
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Against the backdrop of such a scenario, the government has no choice but to pursue a more aggressive and innovative approach to force Myanmar to take its people back. Bangladesh will have to use all the leverage at its disposal to persuade allies of Myanmar whose support is allowing it to commit grave offences with impunity. Dhaka must find a mechanism to become as important as Myanmar to them if not more.
Of course, effort must continue to convince the West-led international community to take punitive measures instead of only providing lip services.