Myanmar’s fresh 'clearance operations'

Another Rohingya exodus in the offing?

This file photo taken on 21 October, 2016 shows armed Myanmar army soldiers patrolling a village in Maungdaw located in Rakhine State as security operation continue following the 9 October, 2016 attacks by armed militants.
This file photo taken on 21 October, 2016 shows armed Myanmar army soldiers patrolling a village in Maungdaw located in Rakhine State as security operation continue following the 9 October, 2016 attacks by armed militants. Photo: AFP
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When the whole world is busy combating the deadly novel coronavirus and struggling for a vaccine to retain the collapsing economy, the army-controlled regime in Myanmar has sketched out another military crackdown in the name of ‘clearing the insurgents’. Once again, the target is the already devastated Rakhine state. The authoritarian regime has over again resorted to the notorious tricks it applied three years back to wipe out the Rohingya community from the border state with Bangladesh.

Any military operation inside one’s boundary for a legitimate cause is the constitutional right of the particular nation. But, the military which has already been accused of committing war crimes against its own country people and confronting an international trial cannot be trusted. Whenever the military launched operations in the region since 1975, it displaced thousands of civilians. Time and again the persecuted people finally crossed the border into Bangladesh.

Just couples of days ago (28 June), a Burmese lawmaker and a humanitarian group told news agency Reuters that “thousands of villagers have fled their homes in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state after a local administrator warned dozens of village leaders that the army planned “clearance operations” against insurgents.” Burma Human Rights Network, a UK-based rights group, has said planned operations have already “affected 39 villages as residents of those areas have begun to flee since the order was issued in Kyauktan” on 24 June.

The fears of brutality have already been instilled. Past experience has forced thousands of the villagers in the prospective operation areas to flee. Just couples of days ago (28 June), a Burmese lawmaker and a humanitarian group told news agency Reuters that “thousands of villagers have fled their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state after a local administrator warned dozens of village leaders that the army planned “clearance operations” against insurgents.” Burma Human Rights Network, a UK-based rights group, has said planned operations have already “affected 39 villages as residents of those areas have begun to flee since the order was issued in Kyauktan” on 24 June. As per the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, the Kyauktan where the army has projected to conduct the operations ‘is home to tens of thousands of people, from both Rohingya and Rakhine communities’. It is terrible sign of possible persecution of the minority community.

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In the wake of the decision of the army operation, the foreign missions of Britain, Australia, US and Canada in the country expressed deep apprehension of worsening “humanitarian and security situation across the region."

Three years back the Myanmar military regime used exactly the same propaganda jargon, "clearance operations", that resulted refugee surge into Bangladesh territory. Years after, it has been proved that the operations were designed to wipe out Rohingya community. Myanmar army has been indicted at the world’s highest justice court for mass killing, torture, rape and arson, directed against the Rohingyas that led to the largest refugee crisis in the world. During those operations, more than 1 million Rohingya people – both Muslims and Hindus – fled to Bangladesh territory. The terrible journeys to save lives are still vivid in our memory. The arrival of the ill-fated community is still on.

They have been living in shabby tents in the hilly coastal district Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh without any hope of repatriation to their motherland. Still thousands of Rohingyas are fleeing through the Bay risking their lives. Any further escalation in the region will accelerate the Rohingya exodus. Bangladesh’s capacity has been stretched to its limit. The large number of refugees have already put huge burden for the tiny land-nation threatening its environment and internal security.

They have been living in shabby tents in the hilly coastal district Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh without any hope of repatriation to their motherland. Still thousands of Rohingyas are fleeing through the Bay risking their lives. Any further escalation in the region will accelerate the Rohingya exodus. Bangladesh’s capacity has been stretched to its limit. The large number of refugees have already put huge burden for the tiny land-nation threatening its environment and internal security.

The Rohingya community is one of the unfortunate ethnic groups across the globe, always betrayed down history. They were first betrayed by British rulers. The Rohingya fighters who fought for liberating Burma from Japanese occupation in the World War II were deceived. In the history, Rohingya community was betrayed, tortured, and humiliated many times by many rulers.

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This military operation has cast doubt as to whether Myanmar military is intended to eliminate the Rohingya community from its territory cashing in on the ongoing geopolitical contention among the Asian giants and global chaotic political and economic orders.

The Rakhine state will turn into a completely ‘failed territory’, meaning huge influx of Rohingya civilians to Bangladesh border, which will create a humanitarian catastrophe in the entire Asian region.

The concern raised by the civil groups and diplomats have a solid ground as such military operations were never responsibly confined to the military course of action. The operations affected the civilians most and threatened the security in the entire Bay of Bengal region. If the army operations are conducted and it ends as it was experienced in the past, this will have two serious consequences. Firstly, the Rakhine state will turn into a completely ‘failed territory’, meaning huge influx of Rohingya civilians to Bangladesh border, which will create a humanitarian catastrophe in the entire Asian region.

Secondly, it may cause another ‘boat people’ crisis worsening the human trafficking level in this area like one in 2015. Meanwhile, many of the nations including Malaysia, who were soft to the distressed Rohingya migrants, have declared their inability to receive any more Rohingyas. Given the situation amid this worst virus turmoil, the circumstances will emerge beyond our imagination.

*Toriqul Islam is journalist, working at Prothom Alo.

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