‘Dhaka should convene global conference on Rohingyas’

Khawaza Main Uddin | Update:

Roundtable on “Rohingya Crisis: Impacts on Society and Economy” organised by the Daily Prothom Alo at its offices in Karwan Bazar. Photo: Prothom aloAlmost an entire population that is equivalent to many nations around the world has been superimposed on Bangladesh through displacement of Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Saying this at a Prothom Alo roundtable on Tuesday, senior economist Wahiduddin Mahmud recommended economic assessment of the impact of the shelter given to about a million Rohingyas in the country’s southeastern region.
He proposed convening a conference of human rights and multilateral groups - in Dhaka or London - to uphold Bangladesh’s humanistic stand of giving shelter to Rohingyas and thus draw more useful global attention to this crisis.
“The high moral standard Bangladesh has set should be used as a diplomatic tool to mobilise global public opinion. Many countries including our neighbours have not been able to take such a position,” said Wahiduddin Mahmud, also a former caretaker government adviser.
Some present and former officials, taking part in the discussion, expressed serious concern over fallouts of a protracted refugee crisis affecting Bangladesh and insisted on sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas in their Myanmar homeland. Engagement of eminent citizens for persuading international actors in this regard was also recommended.
Daily Prothom Alo organised the roundtable on “Rohingya Crisis: Impacts on Society and Economy” at its office to reflect on implications of the influx of the Rohingyas into Bangladesh following persecution by the Myanmar authorities.
About 600,000 Rohngyas, overwhelming majority of whom are Muslims, have taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar since the latest crisis began with violent attacks in Rakhine on 25 August. At least another 400,000 Rohingyas who fled Myanmar earlier were staying in the region.
Wahiduddin Mahmud pointed out that the population of Switzerland (1.3 million) is slightly higher and that of Fiji lower than the number of Rohingyas now in Bangladesh.
“Almost an entire country has been superimposed on Bangladesh... It’s not, however, possible for a so densely populated landmass to bear the burden forever,” he observed.
About external powers’ interests and reported move to establish Rakhine as an economic zone by uprooting an entire ethnic group, he explained that it would be a bad precedent for the world. “In fact, there is no example that economic success has been possible by evicting people,” he said.
Dwelling on India and China’s strategic assessment of Myanmar, the economist expressed his views that Bangladesh must remind them of its geo-strategic value.
Wahiduddin advocated creating noise like that of the Madison Garden Concert for Bangladesh during the liberation war for safe and sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas and get rid of the burden on the country.
Md Golam Abbas, a former official of UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNCHR) office, expressed apprehension that once the euphoria of the global media with the Rohingyas is over, the issue might lose its relevance to the international actors.
He also recommended that the government of Bangladesh should engage international entities in the process of registration of Rohingyas arriving or already staying in Bangladesh.
Focussing on damage to the country’s ecology due to shelters for Rohingyas made in hilly terrain, former chief forest conservator Yunus Ali suggested that Bangladesh should demand compensation for overall environmental damages based on principle of justice.
Former major general ANM Muniruzzaman highlighted concern over infiltration of militant groups such as Middle East-based Daeh or Islamic State taking advantage of the situation.
“As we move from multilateral diplomacy to bilateral negotiation, the dynamics of Myanmar’s politics and governance system, especially influence of military, need to be understood,” he said.
Former ambassador Shamim Ahmed expressed his doubts about sincerity of Myanmar in coming to solving the problem through talks despite the Dhaka visit of the minister of that country.
“I don’t think this problem is going to be solved in a month or two... However, to influence Myanmar, it requires a much bigger step and that should come from the United Nations Security Council,” he said.
Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman, Planning Commission member Kamal Uddin Ahmed, and WaterAid official Abdullah Al-Myueed also addressed the roundtable moderated by Prothom Alo’s associate editor Abdul Quayum.

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