Concerted attempt needed to resolve Rohingya crisis

Mohammad Amjad Hossain
THE Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar have been residing for centuries along with the Rakhines in Arakan, now Known as Rakhine state whereas plenty of satellite photos clearly indicate Myanmar’s security forces have burned scores of villages, beheading men, raping women and killing children ruthlessly. In some places, Buddhist militia and mobs have joined in the attacks against Rohingya ethnic minority who are not recorded in the list of ethnic minorities in Myanmar during the reign of Gen. Ne Win.
An estimated 700,000 Rohingya people have fled to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017, to avoid ethnic and religious persecution by Myanmar’s security forces. There are more 300,000 Rohingyas living in Bangladesh who fled in earlier violence from the Burmese government over the last three decades.
United Nations described it as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Now ARSA has been termed as terrorist organization whereas many armed groups are operating in Burma against Tatmadaw for a long time since 1962 to protest against declaring Burma a Buddhist state by General Ne Win of Tatmadaw.
Who are the Rohingyas: Shams al-Din Ghazi
Rohingya minority community in Myanmar are in fact admixture of early Arab, Persian, Turks and Mughals traders but populations reportedly had been driven back and forth from Arakan several times since 1700’s to Chittagong in particular of Bengal. Arakan old coin dated back to 15th century minted by Shams al-Din Ghazi, Sultan of Bengal. During British colonial rule of Burma from 1824 to 1948 many Muslims in what is now India and Bangladesh relocated to Burma to work and absorbed into the Rohingya.
Historically, Tatmadaw was formed in collaboration of Imperial Japanese army during 1942 to 1945 when Burma was occupied by Japan and had assisted formation of Tatmadaw Independence army to become independence from the British while Aung San, father of Suu Kyi, had formed ant-fascist organization in 1945 and sought help of the British to drive out Japanese and finally won independence in cooperation with the British in 1948. During second world war Rohingya extended support to the British while Burmese nationalists supported Japanese. Seed of animosity planted during Second World War between Rohingya and Burmese nationalists. However, the British did not keep their reported promise a separate state for Rohingya. Burmese military has continuously applying and using all tactics, strategist of fascist Imperial Japanese until now. Historically, Chittagong was occupied by King Min Bin of Arakan from 1546 to 1547 while Mughal took back in 1660 from Arakan King.
Industrialist A.K.Khan’s father-in-law
The language of Rohingya is close to Chittagonian dialect which this writer does not understand when faced with exodus of Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar camps in 1992. This writer was on a visit with newly recruited foreign service officers. Many Muslim familes during British rule established themselves as business magnates in Burma. Father-in-law of Industrialist A.K.Khan settled in Burma. Abul Bari Choudhury, father-in-law of A.K.Khan, who established rice mill and founded the Burma Steam Navigation company whose share holder was this writer’s father Mohammad Akbor Hossain (deceased) who served in Accountant General Office of the British in Rangoon from 1940 and transferred to Shimla in India after Japanese occupied Burma. This writer’s one of the aunties was a Burmese Muslim woman.
The capital of Rakhine state Sittwe, is now having deep sea port being built with the help of Indian government and the area is set for economic growth, while China, another country bordering with Myanmar, a transnational pipe line is built by China National Petroleum Company connecting Sittwe to Kunming of China.
Japan, on the other hand, has invested in Myanmar designed to upgrade infrastructure there to contain Chinese influence on Myanmar. Being largest donor country Japan in fact exempted hundred billions of Yen worth of debt to Myanmar in the face of democratic process since first and fair election on 8 November of 2015.
Collaboration with Malaysia and Indonesia needed
International outcry would not resolve Rohingya crisis. A concerted attempt needs to be taken by Bangladesh government in particular in collaboration with Malaysia and Indonesia to put pressure of China, Japan and India to impress upon Chief of armed forces of Myanmar to rehabilitate Rohingya in Myanmar. Myanmar armed forces control the administration which was intended to bring dishonour to Aung San Suu Kyi.In this process they are successful indeed. Any deviation in dealing with Rohingya minority without concurrence of Tatmadaw will bring down fall of Aung San Suu Kyi.
This is the third time that Bangladesh is having serious problem with Myanmar Rohingya who were driven from Rakhine state of Myanmar by military junta. An estimated 693,000 Rohingya have been driven into Bangladesh by military junta of Myanmar in 2018.Over half of them are children. UNICEF is providing lifesaving supplies for Rohingya while UN women set up the first multi-purpose women’s Center. Under General Ne Win in 1979 as many as 200,000 were given shelter by Bangladesh government of President Ziaur Rahman on humanitarian grounds. A diplomatic maneuver by Bangladesh to convince friendly countries, including Malaysia of Prime Minister Datuk Hussein Onn succeeded to pressure on Myanmar to take them back Rohingyas. In fact, Malaysia and Burmese government of General Ne Win has had excellent bilateral relations. Within a span of 16 months they were repatriated back to Burma. In 1982 Burmese government made an amendment to the citizenship law which took away citizenship of Rohingyas while name of the country has been changed as well: Myanmar.
Myanmar junta’s military operation
The Rohingya again became victims of Myanmar military junta in 1990 when the junta conducted an operation to eliminate alleged illegal immigrants from the country. The military junta concentrated on the Rakhine state to drive out Rohingya on the pretext to raping a Buddhist woman. Local Buddhists, along with the military, attacked Rohingyas which caused 270,000 of them to flee by March of 1990 from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Present Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres has had discussion on 12 July of 2012 as UN High Commissioner for Refugees with Myanmar immediate past President General Thein Sein to find a solution of ethnic enmity. General Thein Sein told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that the problem of ethnic enmity would be solved if they are either sent to back to a third country or have the UNHCR to look after them. This meant President General Thein Sein walked away from his commitment to take back Rohingyas from Bangladesh which commitment he made to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina when she paid a visit to Myanmar in December of 2011.
As of now numerous goodwill gesture has been shown from around the world by the leaders towards leadership of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to give shelter Rohingya of Myanmar on humanitarian ground but no serious effort has been made to resettle in Rakhine state of Myanmar—ancestral home land—Arakan where Buddhists and Muslims co-existed for centuries ruling themselves. Historically, Burma was never a country but a group of Kingdoms. Burmans occupied Arakan for a mere 40 years before they were defeated by the British. Currently, 40 percent of the population are minorities while 60 percent represent Burman. Concerted efforts by both China, India and Japan is required to impress upon on Myanmar administration, particularly Tatmadaw to resolve repatriation of Rohingya to their homeland.
A United Nations human rights expert has implored Bangladesh to shelve “rushed plans” to repatriate Rohingya refugees back across the border into Myanmar’s Rakhine State for fear that without safety guarantees from the Burmese Government, persecution and horrific violence could begin all over again. Not only did the Rohingya face horrific violence at the hands of security forces in 2016 and 2017 with no accountability, they have been subjected to decades-long systematic discrimination and persecution in Myanmar,” Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar said. After a reported military-led crackdown, widespread killings, rape and village torchings, nearly three-quarters of a million Rohingya fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 to settle in crowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. In December 2017 both Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on a repatriation plan that would begin the process of returning hundreds from the camps in mid-November.
Ms. Lee has repeatedly said that any returns before the root causes of the crisis were dealt with was highly premature and unjust. Moreover, she received credible information from refugees in Cox’s Bazar expressing their deep fear their names will be on the repatriation list – causing distress and anguish. “I have not seen any evidence of the Government of Myanmar taking concrete and visible measures to create an environment where the Rohingya can return to their place of origin and live there safely with their fundamental rights guaranteed,” said the Special Rapporteur.

Ms. Lee reiterated that the refugees must be given the opportunity to participate in the process, as it was their decision alone to return to Myanmar.“Any returns under current conditions where there is high risk of persecution, may violate obligations under customary international law to uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” she asserted.While the Government of Myanmar has reportedly been developing the Rohingya area, building physical infrastructure to house returnees does not resolve the issues, stressed the Special Rapporteur.

Mohammad Amjad Hossain, a retired diplomat from Bangladesh and former President of Nova chapter of Toastmaster International Club of America, writes from Virginia

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