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The roadblocks to a Rohingya safe zone

  • Published at 11:36 pm September 22nd, 2017
The roadblocks to a Rohingya safe zone
Implementing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's proposal to create a safe zone in Myanmar for the forcibly displaced Rohingya will be impossible unless all member states of the UN Security Council agree to it, said experts. The prime minister addressed the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, where she proposed for creating a safe zone in Myanmar, under UN supervision, to rehabilitate the Rohingya refugees who are currently living in Bangladesh to escape military persecution in their homeland – the Rakhine state. Experts believe that, as China and India – the two neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and political powerhouses in the region – have yet to respond positively to the idea, no other country is likely to impose pressure on Myanmar over this issue.
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According to the UNHCR estimates, as of Thursday, around 422,000 Rohingya people have crossed over to Bangladesh since Myanmar security forces launched a vicious crackdown in Rakhine in response to insurgent attacks on several border police outposts and an army base in the state on August 25. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has called what has been happening in Rakhine a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly called for the UN to intervene and ensure a safe zone for the Rohingya since the crisis began, and she reiterated the same suggestion, along with a few others, at the General Assembly. Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, political analyst Afsan Chowdhury termed the prime minister's proposal “good,” but said it would be very difficult to implement as Bangladesh did not have much support from other countries. He said in global politics, every country has its own interests to protect, and relationships among the countries depend on how aligned their respective interests are.
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Shahab Enam Khan, professor of international relations at Jahangirnagar University, said creating a safe zone required the consent of the entire UN Security Council. “Considering the current political climate, expecting all the member states to agree to it is naïve,” he said. “In order to get the entire council to agree to its proposal, Bangladesh has to convince China and Russia that this is the right course of action.” China and Russia, two among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, have the power to veto any proposal placed before the council. China, which has close diplomatic and economic ties with Myanmar, has offered its support for Myanmar government's “efforts to uphold peace and stability” in Rakhine, while Russia has spoken against intervening in Myanmar's “internal affairs.” Afsan Chowdhury also criticised the previous governments of Bangladesh for failing to protect the country's interests by stemming the Rohingya influx that began in 1978. “Not a single country in the current world is 'humane'; why, then, has Bangladesh taken up this role?” he asked. Shahab Enam Khan echoed Afsan's sentiments, saying the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had shown zero prediction ability as it had been unable to foresee the situation.