All-out preparations must be in place to prevent further influxes from bordering Rakhine State
On the morning of Monday after the Myanmar military assumed power through a bloodless coup, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told this correspondent that the events in the country’s second neighbour would not necessarily impact the process of repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh.
Well, everybody in the country would like to share the optimism of the foreign minister as the Rohingya crisis has been, for a while, one of the gravest crises of the country since its independence about 50 years ago. But, the reality on the ground, sadly, does not offer people to be optimistic.
Bangladesh is not new to the Rohingya crisis. On and off, it is being haunted by this crisis since very long without being a party to it. The latest exodus of about 750,000 Rohingyas in late August, 2017 had surpassed all the past records. And, this happened due to the unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by the Myanmar military aided by the local Buddhist mobs and people belonging to different ethnic groups. Now, that military is in full direct control of the country although it was, prior to Monday, was running the affairs behind the scene. Like the military, the ‘civilian’ government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, had the same attitude towards the atrocities against the Rohingyas in 2017. The military is solely responsible for the all past and present oppression of the Rohingyas, who are often described as one of the most persecuted communities in the world.
On the heels of such a scenario, only poorer response with regard to the Rohingya repatriation can be expected of the military government in Naypyitaw. Not only that, the crisis can even be worsened by crackdowns of roughly 500,000 Rohingyas still living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Should that happen, Bangladesh will be affected even more. It has to be remembered that the whole crisis has been created by none other than the military itself.
Furthermore, the Bangladesh diplomacy has a crucial role to play in the coming days to stop the situation to deteriorate further, to maintain the status quo and to try to engage with the military government which is expected to have little time or no time for the Rohingya issue against the background of huge international pressure.
Bangladesh may pursue the approaches it took in 1980s and 1990s when the Rohingya repatriations were possible under the military rules in Myanmar.
Dhaka should also actively engage with the countries and blocs that may put pressure on Myanmar in as much ways as possible. The United Nations, United States, European Union, ASEAN, China, Russia, Japan, the United Kingdom and India are the few names. If the past is any guide, it will be very difficult to persuade China, the staunchest ally of Myanmar, Russia, Japan, and India because these countries have geopolitical and economic interests in that country. These countries have similar interests in Bangladesh too. The efficiency of the Bangladesh diplomacy will be to prove to these countries that Dhaka is as important as Naypyitaw if not more. These countries need to understand that the solution to the Rohingya crisis lies solely in sustainable repatriation and that the lingering of the crisis will destabilize the region that will harm their business interests.
While engaging with the new military government in Myanmar and the international community in an effort to make progress regarding the repatriation, the country must not look away from its border with Myanmar even for a moment. Every kind of preparations will have to be in place to prevent any more influxes from bordering Rakhine state.