• Monday, Oct 14, 2019
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The bitter world we inhabit

  • Published at 12:02 am September 23rd, 2019
Rohingya
There are no easy solutions REUTERS

With the Rohingya crisis, simply continuing the current arrangements is unfeasible

It has been two years since the massive flight of terrified Rohingya to Bangladesh took place. 

The Myanmar army drove almost 1 million people from their homes -- burning down homes, killing randomly, raping both men and women, with deliberate, organized cruelty, designed to destroy the Rohingya physically and mentally. 

Estimates of those killed during the exodus range from 50,000-100,000. Since this massive drive, justified by the Myanmar army from a fake uprising of the Rohingya, the Myanmar government has played Bangladesh along cynically, promising repatriation. 

The leadership of the Myanmar army is guilty of genocide; these mentally disturbed generals are quite aware of what they have done, and they are desperately seeking friends to protect them.

The motivation for this crime was to drive away Muslims from Rakhine state enabling the area to be repopulated with Myanmar Buddhists in a great land-grab, as well as to bring in thousands of Chinese workers. 

The driving out of the Rohingya was essential for the security of the pipelines and railways the Chinese are building from Southern China to Rakhine state, to enable some of their critical imports to be sent to southern China without passing through the Straits of Malacca.

Bangladesh’s response to the influx of Rohingya, directed by PM Hasina, welcomed these desperate souls and over these two years has sheltered and fed them. Many countries have expressed support and admiration for Bangladesh. 

Some have sent funds; most funds have come from Western countries and Japan. China and Russia have contributed little. India has mumbled, uncertain of both words and deeds. Bangladesh has been inundated with words and good wishes.

The Chinese and Russian contributions have been to defend the Myanmar generals from the terrible crimes they have committed. No surprise -- abuse of millions, starvation, internment by hundreds of thousands are standard practice in Russia and China. 

The current treatment of the Uighurs and the Tibetans are all too brutal examples. The Chinese seem determined to destroy Islam in the Uighur community. Of course they have no respect or feelings about the million Muslim Rohingya.

All of this leads, after two years, to the question of what is going to happen next to these almost 1 million people. Everyone wants them to go back according to the mountain of words that is spoken. 

But in fact, Myanmar will not have them back. Increased pressure from the Western world for repatriation will be offset by support for Myanmar from China, Russia, and India. 

The international community will not manage to send them back to Myanmar or take them as refugees to their own countries. Bangladesh has these million persons who have been driven out of their own country without remorse for human suffering.

Various countries have provided funds for Bangladesh to help take care of the Rohingya. But this funding will decline in the coming years, and more and more the Rohingya will be Bangladesh’s problem. 

Myanmar is not going to take them back and the rest of the world is not going to give much money to assist in their maintenance. This is the bitter world we inhabit. 

The Rohingya are naturally forming organizations in the camps to express their collective discontent. They want to go back to their homes under reasonable conditions that will give them rights and protect them from continuing the abuse. 

They also want a return of their property but are frustrated by the failure of Myanmar to accept them back under reasonable conditions. They fear that they will be forgotten and end up in the camps indefinitely or trafficked out as semi-slaves or sex workers. This frustration is rising.

There are no easy solutions. The Rohingya’s unfocused discontent is growing. Myanmar has committed a deliberate act of aggression against Bangladesh and is unpunished for this. 

In fact, this aggression is compounded by the growing sale of drugs manufactured in Myanmar by factories owned by the very generals that expelled the Rohingya.

Aggression should not go unchallenged. Myanmar’s leaders should be taken to the international courts and charged with genocide. The names of the Myanmar generals should be trumpeted to the world for the evil that they have done. 

Their children abroad should be shamed with the crimes their fathers have committed. Bangladesh should petition the friends of Bangladesh to stop training Myanmar officers, to reduce contact with this nest of vipers, and to teach such officers about human rights and challenge them to explain what they have done to the Rohingya. 

There are a thousand battles here to undermine the reputation of the Myanmar military establishment. This is a battle that can start today.

With declining external resources to manage the Rohingya in Bangladesh, it is necessary to provide for temporary employment and a more elaborate education system for the children. This would enable the Rohingya to work and contribute to their own subsistence. 

Such an outcome is best approached through establishing industrial zones where Rohingya will be allowed temporary employment until such time that they can return to Myanmar. They should be allowed to work to earn their livelihood, rather than being dependent on charity.

Consideration should be given to providing birthright citizenship to Rohingya children born after January 1, 2018. These children would be Bangladesh citizens. 

This provides an eventual end to this problem rather than have it hang on for years with endless litigation and abuse. If this were done the problem of the Rohingya, whatever happens, will be more or less finished in 25 years. The cost of such a program of relocation, education, and employment is substantial. It must ensure the economic welfare of the surrounding Bangladesh communities and it must provide for a transition period while Rohingya move and adjust to living outside the camps. 

The donors should be pushed to support such a program. Since there is an end to it, an investment to solve the problem, perhaps resources will be more forthcoming. Such a program of relocation and putting the Rohingya to work seems vastly superior to the current arrangements. 

Of course, there will be many difficulties and Rohingya will escape their resident arrangements. But we will see a steady leakage from the camps. Dispersed arrangements will reduce the possibility of large organized demonstrations that could lead to grave difficulties.

If such an approach of earning their way is not followed, then the cost of the Rohingya upkeep will fall more and more on Bangladesh. This will lead to more discontent with the local community.

What seems unfeasible, to me, is simply a continuation of the current arrangements.

Forrest Cookson is an American economist.