Analysts for long-term solution to Rohingya problems

From Left: Akbar Ali Khan, Harun ur Rashid, Ashfaqur Rahman and Prof Delwar Hossain

World leaders should exert pressure on Myanmar for a lasting solution to the longstanding problems of the Rohingyas who have been facing serious human rights violations for decades, international relations experts say.

দয়া করে শরনার্থীদের সাহায্য করুন, মাননীয় প্রধানমন্ত্রী

The Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state are victims of internal politics, and sheltering those seeking refuge in Bangladesh to escape the recent communal violence in Myanmar is not the solution, they observe.

The Daily Star talked to several leading international relations experts yesterday in the wake of a debate whether or not Bangladesh should open the border for the Rohingyas.

Teknaf prays for peace of all

Bangladesh has been preventing Rohingyas’ intrusion in its territory and has taken a clear position not to allow any more of them because of resource constraints and security reasons.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on Thursday told parliament that the international organisations or the friendly nations should, instead of pressing Bangladesh to allow the Rohingyas in, urge Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya issue.

In the past few days, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Dhaka, New York-based Human Rights Watch, US State Department and the Organisation of Islamic Conference urged Bangladesh to allow the Rohingyas into Bangladesh.

But foreign policy analysts say they support the Bangladesh government position.

“To be a refugee, one has to face persecution, which is not the case here. The state [Myanmar] is also not involved here. So, why there is a question of giving shelter?” said Harun ur Rashid, former ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Bangladesh has already sheltered many Rohingyas, but that did not solve Myanmar’s internal problems, said the veteran diplomat, adding that the Western nations should press the Myanmar government to find out the root cause for the Rohingya problems and help address it.

“Myanmar is returning to democracy. Its president is coming to Bangladesh in July. So we should not be doing anything that we are misunderstood [by Myanmar],” noted Rashid, also a barrister.

Several organisations in Rakhine champion the demand for a separate state, he said, adding: “Will it be right for Bangladesh to shelter anyone who might have links to separatist movement?”

He also criticised Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for not speaking against the rights violation in her country.

According to Prof Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University, there is no compelling ground for Bangladesh to open the border for the Rohingyas.

Some may think that opening of the border would solve the problem, but in fact it will have a rather negative impact on Bangladesh, he observed.

“This is because many Rohingyas are already here. Around 29,000 are in the refugee camps and a few lakh outside those camps. This has not solved any problem, but Bangladesh is facing troubles,” said Prof Delwar, who teaches international relations.

This apart, Myanmar is on the road to democracy, which means that the Myanmar government will gradually accommodate all its ethnic minorities. “How Myanmar deals with the recent violence is also a test for it for the international community to see,” he added.

Opening Bangladesh’s border at this juncture will prove even more difficult for the repatriation of the existing Rohingyas in Bangladesh, he said, adding: “This can also have a negative impact in Bangladesh-Myanmar relations.”

So far, the international community has not actually played their due role in addressing the Rohingya issue, the professor said, urging the world leaders to be more responsible for ensuring a lasting solution there.

Former ambassador Ashfaqur Rahman said Myanmar’s domestic politics was to blame for the ethnic and communal problems facing the Rohingyas, and Bangladesh had no role in it.

“During Bangladesh’s liberation war, many of our citizens took shelter in India, but we returned home after nine months. But in case of the Rohingyas, there were influxes earlier too and we allowed them in. Still, the problem is not getting solved…. The Rohingyas continue to stay here. So, what is the point of opening the door again?” he said.

“Before the Myanmar president comes to Bangladesh in July, Bangladesh should go for a robust diplomatic effort to mobilise the international community’s opinion so it keeps up pressure on Myanmar,” Rahman added.

Akbar Ali Khan, adviser to a caretaker government, however, said Bangladesh could “temporarily” shelter some Rohingyas if their lives were “really in danger” in Myanmar.

The intrusion of Rohingyas has become a common feature of the bordering area at Teknaf since their first influx as refugees in 1978.

At least a hundred Rohingyas have fled into Bangladesh every month over the past three years and about fifty thousand of them now live at Teknaf alone, local officials say.

Amir Ahmed, 55, president of the association of imams in Teknaf, said, 50,000 to 1 lakh Rohingyas came to Teknaf in 1978, and another 2.5 to 3 lakh in 1991.

The figures could not be verified independently.

The recent violence in Maungdaw and Sittwe has led to the increase in Rohingyas heading for Teknaf. Locals and officials expect such attempts would stop soon.