Bangladesh needs to step up diplomacy on Myanmar issue


Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village. Picture taken 1 September 2017. ReutersBangladesh needs to step up diplomacy on Myanmar issue

After Myanmar’s state-sponsored violence and systemic genocide, they have finally sent their social welfare minister on a visit to inspect the refugee camps in Bangladesh. There are all reasons to see this visit as an eyewash, much like the ‘progress’ being made regarding the repatriation deal. Some may see this visit as ‘better than nothing’ or even imagine this to be progress in the process. Some may reason that while the Myanmar authorities have not even acknowledged the Rohingyas as their citizens, they have gone as far as to sign a deal to take them back and are now obliged to even inspect the refugee camps. But such reasoning holds no water.

From the very outset, Myanmar has been handling the matter craftily. There has been no change in their state policy regarding Rohingyas. Despite so much hue and cry the world over, Myanmar’s ‘democratic leader’ Aung San Suu Kyi has not visited a single Refugee camps even within Myanmar itself.

Long after the evidence of the destruction has been removed by bulldozing the sites, sending over the social welfare minister to Bangladesh seems to be another strategic ploy. They are projecting this as a humanitarian response. They demurred from sending any important minister as this may give too much importance to the Rohingyas. While visiting the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, the minister did not utter a single word of regret. There really is no scope to view this visit as anything but merely mechanical, yet another smooth strategic move.

After the minister’s visit, the Myanmar authorities took back just a family of five and projected this as the start of ‘repatriation’. In spite of signing an agreement with Bangladesh, they are persistently dragging their feet on actually implementing the repatriation process.

The deal signed between Bangladesh and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is a positive step. The main challenge is to force Myanmar to create an environment conducive to begin the repatriation.

Monsoons are ahead and this will exacerbate the sufferings of the Rohingya refugees. Then there is the risk of regional security being disrupted. Yet the UN, the European Union and other international quarters have so far failed to make Myanmar take any correct decision. The deals, discussions and bilateral visits are diverting international attention away from the actual problem. If things continue in this manner, the Rohingyas may one day become a forgotten group of stateless refugees.

Bangladesh needs to take up adroit diplomacy to impose sanctions on Myanmar. It is a matter of serious concern that Bangladesh and certain countries who see regional stability as essential for world peace, restrict themselves to ‘stern statements’ or ineffective sanctions. Bangladesh needs to step up its diplomacy with its close allies so that they can put pressure on Myanmar’s military-backed government to take back the Rohingyas to their own land.

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