Security expert and former election commissioner Brigadier General (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain
talked with Dhaka Tribune
’s Tarek Mahmud over the security dimension of the recent Rohingya influx
What does the Rohingya influx mean for Bangladesh's security?
Bangladesh will possibly face more of a social threat due to the Rohingya crisis, than any security threat from the refugees. As the Rohingyas are fleeing into Bangladesh from crisis in their own lands, smugglers can cash in through drug peddling. Besides, the Rohingyas - who are farmers, hawkers, fishermen and from other low-income groups - are becoming jobless after coming into Bangladesh. When it becomes difficult to lead normal lives through aid, they will take part in illegal activity like human trafficking, carrying drugs and arms, sex trade etc. That would be a massive through to our social security.
Is there any threat of militancy or insurgency due to the Rohingya crisis?
We often find that some insurgent groups of Myanmar enter our country’s border areas and use our land for their activity. Because of the recent crisis, thousands of Rohingyas are entering the country, which creates scope for local militants and insurgent groups of both countries to try and lure helpless refugees into militancy or insurgency.
Bangladesh’s security agencies and border guards should look over such possibility and gear up intelligence activities.
Myanmar’s army is mining its border areas, while their air force has crossed over into our air space. How should we react to that?
Myanmar mining the border areas and entering the Bangladeshi air space at least 17 times is not acceptable. This is a part of Myanmar wanting to push all the Rohingyas into Bangladesh. But Bangladesh has to stand strong. We have to give a strong diplomatic response to such unacceptable moves. Besides, our border guards and defence forces have to be more alert so that other country’s military in future do not try to act in such ways.
With India and China – two diplomatic friends of Bangladesh – siding with Myanmar, how should Bangladesh handle the Rohingya issue in keeping the country safe from any kind of unrest?
India and China, the two big players, are standing with Myanmar for the sake of their own interests. They find many advantages in siding with Myanmar; so they are supporting the Buddhist-majority country. Every country, first and foremost, thinks about its own interest. Bangladesh should also handle the Rohingya issue through a strong foreign policy. We have to introduce a Rohingya policy as the problem emerges at regular intervals
How do you see the plan of setting up safe zones for the Rohingya people in Bangladesh?
Such measures can be a temporary solution to the Rohingya refugees on humanitarian grounds. But, Bangladesh should press the United Nation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) and other international bodies so that they press
Myanmar to come up with a constructive solution for the Rohingyas.
In the long run, what sort of security problems can the Rohingya refugees create and what can Bangladesh do to handle it?
Rohingya people often have been arrested with Bangladeshi criminals for committing various misdeeds. If we cannot control their movement in the country it could pave the way for another crisis. Bangladesh should help the rootless Rohingyas for the sake of humanity, keeping in mind the country’s law and order situation. We need to monitor the refugees.
How can Bangladesh increase security both at the borders and inside the country to avoid any untoward occurrence?
We must secure our borders and internal areas. The internal security agencies should be vigilant in the respective areas. Border Guard Bangladesh should be stricter at the border areas so that another country’s armed men cannot enter into our territory. Detectives should be more proactive.
What role should Bangladesh play in Myanmar’s problems with its insurgent groups?
The hill tracts and southeast borders of the country are more vulnerable to insurgency. If Bangladesh can ensure and tighten security, especially in the border areas, then it will tough for insurgent groups to create any problems here.
The government should deploy more intelligence officers and law enforcers to watch over these areas. Besides, we have to look over the fact that no Rohingya should go out from the selected places provided to them from the government.
What can the international community do to compel Myanmar to accept the Rohingya as legitimate citizens?
Some countries stand with Myanmar while many countries expressed their sympathy for the Rohingyas. Now we need unity of the international community. The United Nations has to play a leading role in this matter. If all the international bodies can come to a common point in favour of the Rohingya people, Myanmar can be pressed to take positive steps towards the oppressed community.