If not resolved, Rohingya crisis may destabilise region

Rohingya Crisis  

 If not resolved, Rohingya crisis may destabilise region 

President tells CICA  

UNB >  Dushanbe, Tajikstan | Published: 13:49, Jun 15,2019 | Updated: 00:22, Jun 16,2019

Bangladesh president Abdul Hamid and president of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon at 5th Summit of CICA at Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.

Stressing the importance of a peaceful solution to Rohingya crisis, president Abdul Hamid on Saturday said the crisis could destabilise the entire region if it was left unresolved. ‘We seek a peaceful solution to the crisis and signed instruments on repatriation with Myanmar. If it’s left unresolved, the crisis can destabilise the entire region,’ he said.

The president said this while addressing the 5th Summit of Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia held at Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.

He also sought support and cooperation from our CICA partners so that the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals could return to their homeland with safety, security and dignity.

‘The world knows Bangladesh hosts 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. You must be aware of the evidences of genocide and gross violation of human rights, which has been termed as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and humanitarian catastrophe of unmanageable magnitude,’ said president Hamid.

These people were forcibly displaced from their ancestral homes and they took shelter in Bangladesh, he said adding, ‘We’ve opened the door and are still hosting them.’

Mentioning that Asia is facing issues like violent extremism, international terrorism, forced migration among others which go beyond borders, the president stressed the need for coordinating response among the states to tackle those.

Leaders and officials including President Abdul Hamid pose for a group photo during the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe in Tajikistan on June 15, 2019. Photo: Reuters

‘Asian security is vulnerable as irregular migration, drug trafficking, territorial claims, ethnic conflicts, separatism, economic problems and climate change are visible here. To address these crucial challenges, CICA needs to enhance its capacity through promoting the concept of indivisible security,’ he said.

‘We must work together so that the existing discords in the region should not impede the process of resolving issues related with security and cooperation in Asia,’ he said. Stability and security in Asia were imperative for economic development, Hamid said adding, ‘We can achieve that through dialogue and cooperation.’

During the conference, the founder of Peace and National Unity and president of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon held meetings with the leaders of a number of CICA member states to discuss the condition and prospects of bilateral and multilateral relations.

The CICA is an intergovernmental forum and regional organisation established in 1992 with UN support. Discussions on issues of security and cooperation in the Asia Pacific region and assistance in the global fight against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and transnational crimes are the main objectives of this conference.

More about: Abdul Hamid, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Rohingya Crisis

Source: http://www.newagebd.net/article/75434/if-not-resolved-rohingya-crisis-may-destabilise-region

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Rohingya Repatriation: An Arduous Task Ahead

Home > Opinion > Rohingya Repatriation: An Arduous Task Ahead

Rohingya Repatriation: An Arduous Task Ahead

Pranab Kumar Panday  > 12th June, 2019 05:06:04

The issue of violence against the Rohingya people in the Rakhine state of Myanmar has drawn the attention of the world community. This has led to a massive influx of refugees to Bangladesh. Around 727,000 Rohingya people were compelled to flee from Myanmar since August 2017 in order to save them from the brutal killings, tortures and rape committed by the Myanmar army. These brutalities were committed in the name of a campaign to reinstate stability in Rakhine. This influx of the Rohingyas has created an enormous pressure on the economy of Bangladesh.

Rohngya refugees attempt to escape Myanmar (Photo-Jordi Bernabeu Farrus via Flickr)

The Rohingya crisis is not new in the context of Bangladesh; rather it has been negatively affecting Myanmar-Bangladesh relations for the last 50 years. The root cause of this crisis has been the pervasive violation of human rights against the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state. Both the government have held a series of talks to find a solution to this problem but failed to come out with a positive note.

The recent influx of the Rohingya people to Bangladesh has outnumbered the previous records. Now one may wonder why the Government of Bangladesh allowed these large number of Rohingya people to enter the country. As a matter of fact, the government of Bangladesh led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was sceptical to open the border during the early days of the influx in late August 2017.

The government was concerned about the upcoming election that was scheduled at the time for late December 2018 or early 2019. Later, considering the miseries of the Rohingya population from the humanitarian perspective the government decided to open the border for those distressed people. This was really a plucky decision of the government that influenced the mainstream British Media to title the Prime Minister of Bangladesh as “the Mother of Humanity”.

Although the whole world, including the UN, has raised their voice against the Myanmar government, India and China have stood beside them. The support from two giant states of Asia has influenced the Myanmar government to remain silent on the issue of repatriation of the distressed population. One striking point is that although India is a good friend of Bangladesh, they are yet to make their stance clear about the Rohingya crisis. Of course, both India and China have their individual business interests with the Myanmar government.

To be more specific, China is not only Myanmar’s biggest trading partner but also the biggest source of foreign direct investment. Like China, India in pursuit of its ‘Look/Act East’ policy is gradually developing its trade relations with Myanmar. Thus, none of them is coming forward with a positive mind to create pressure on the Myanmar government to compel them to commence the process of Rohingya repatriation.

Now a pertinent question is: what would be the destiny of these Rohingya populations? Would they be able to return back to their motherland or would live a substandard life in the refugee camps forever? This is a million dollar question and nothing significant has yet happened from a series of discussions between officials of both the countries. One noteworthy development is that both governments have agreed to hold dialogues on Rohingya repatriation.

Accordingly, both the governments reached an agreement on the repatriation of Rohingya population at a bilateral meeting of a Joint Working Group on Returns held in Naypyidaw on the 16th of January 2018.

As per the provision of the agreement, a consensus was reached that 1,500 Rohingyas would be repatriated weekly. It was also agreed that all “eligible” refugees would be sent back to their homeland within two years. However, the international communities have expressed their deep concern about two provisions of the agreement, including “eligibility” and “time-frame”. Since the Rohingya population have been denied the citizenship rights in Arakan since 1992, it would not be possible for them to prove their eligibility. Along with the “eligibility” criteria, these people would have to prove that they fled from Myanmar after 9th of October, 2016. The “National Verification Cards” would only be issued to those repatriated Rohingyas who would qualify under this near impossible criterion.

This is not a well-though-out agreement. Moreover, the provision, in relation to the time frame of repatriation, was also illogical as it would take more than 10 years if 1,500 refugees are sent to their motherland weekly. Based on the provision of the agreement, the government of Bangladesh handed over a list of 8,000 qualified refugees more than eight months ago.

Unfortunately, the process of repatriation was halted several times. Finally, on the day of repatriation of the first group of Rohingya population, they refused to go back on the ground that they would experience the same brutality if they go back as the situation in Arakan is not yet safe for them.

Under the above circumstance, a moot question is what would happen with these groups of refugees. A critical analysis of the overall situation leads me to conclude that Rohingya repatriation would not commence in the near future.

The situation would not improve until international communities, including India and China, extend their support to Bangladesh on this issue and impose economic and trade sanctions on the Myanmar government. Thus, for making things happen, the government of Bangladesh should invest their time and efforts to strengthen their diplomatic initiatives with Asian giants as well as the USA and Russia.

The Rohingya crisis has a multidimensional consequence for Bangladesh. This crisis is not only creating economic pressure on the government, but has also political and social consequences. Insurgency movements could use the Rohingya people to destabilise the political situation in the country.

Moreover, there is a possibility that the mainstream Bangladeshi people may get involved in collusion with the Rohingya population over the period of time. Since the birth rate within the Rohingya population is very high, the days are not very far when they would outnumber the mainstream population making Bangladeshi people minority there.

On the part of the Rohingya people, they are also living with restrictions on access to humanitarian aid and freedom of movement. Even, they require written permission of the government officials whenever they are required to go to a hospital outside the camps. Thus, the issue of the Rohingya crisis should be a priority area of not only the government of Bangladesh but also of the international communities. But, considering the enormity of the situation, it can be said without any hesitation that an arduous task is waiting ahead if we really want to send Rohingyas back to their homeland.

 The writer is a Professor of Public Administration and an Additional Directors of the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

Tags: Rohingya Repatriation, An Arduous Task Ahead, Pranab Kumar Panday

Source: https://www.daily-sun.com/post/398788/2019/06/12/Rohingya-Repatriation:-An-Arduous-Task-Ahead   

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Rohingya repatriation: Bangladesh asks Myanmar to come up with ‘package’

Home > Bangladesh > Rohingya Crisis


Rohingya repatriation: Bangladesh asks Myanmar to come up with ‘package’

Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan > Published at 08:25 pm June 16th, 2019

Bangladesh is currently sheltering over 1.2 million Rohingyas in a number of refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar : Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

It’s Myanmar’s responsibility to create a conducive environment in Rakhine and to convince Rohingyas in Bangladesh to return to their homes, annoyed Dhaka tells unwilling Naypyitaw

 An apparently annoyed Bangladesh has asked Myanmar to come up with a ‘package’ to ensure the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, who had to cross into Cox’s Bazar to escape persecution in Rakhine.

The ‘package’ sought by Bangladesh mainly includes the creation of a favourable situation in Rakhine, convincing the persecuted people sheltered in Cox’s Bazar to return to their homes, and easing the verification process, senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

 Rohingya Refugees Camp – Photo: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU / Dhaka Tribune

“We have really had enough of Myanmar’s hide and seek game. We’re not going to them until they come up with a package that will ensure the dignified, safe, and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas,” said a senior official.

“We have made our feelings known very clearly,” said the official, reminding that in accordance with the bilateral arrangement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar in Naypyitaw on November 23, 2017, repatriation should have begun by January 22, 2018, and completed within two years. “But, nothing happened due to the sheer unwillingness of the Myanmar government. We do not think we can take this anymore,” he said.

Elaborating on the package, another senior official said: “We have asked Myanmar to create a conducive environment in Rakhine for the Rohingyas to return and live safely and peacefully. We have also asked them to send a team to engage with Rohingyas in the settlements to convince them to return. The Myanmar side has also been asked to simplify the verification forms that need to be filled up by the Rohingyas who want to return.”

“It is the responsibility of Myanmar to create a conducive environment and convince its own people to return to their homes in Rakhine,” he said.  “Let’s see what Myanmar does. The problem with our second neighbour is that they change their goalposts quickly. It is extremely difficult to deal with such a neighbour. But we have no choice but to keep engaged with them as well as with the international community,” he added.

Expressing his annoyance with Myanmar’s foot-dragging in the repatriation process, another official hinted that from now on Bangladesh would place greater emphasis on persuading the international community, especially China, Russia and India, to exert more pressure on Naypyitaw to take the Rohingyas back.

“Many in the government tend to believe that bilateralism has not been very effective so far, which is evidenced by the slow progress,” he said. To a question, the officials said that all these issues were discussed at the fourth meeting of the joint working group (JWG) in Naypyitaw on May 3 and the Myanmar side sounded positive about them then.

But they said, as usual, there have been no visible measures taken by the Myanmar government and Naypyitaw did not get back to Dhaka about sending a team to engage with the Rohingyas in the settlements to assure them of safety in Rakhine.

Tags: Myanmar, Cox’s Bazar, Rohingya Refugees, MoFA

Source: https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/rohingya-crisis/2019/06/16/rohingya-repatriation-bangladesh-asks-myanmar-to-come-up-with-package

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Rohingyas: Forgotten or Written Off

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Rohingyas: Forgotten or Written Off                                                                       

By Dr. Akhter Hussain > 16th June, 2019 11:35:26

Bangladesh is currently sheltering over 1.2 million Rohingyas in a number of refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo – ANA TV  

Dr. Akhter Hussain is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka and Member, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh.
 For quite sometimes, the forcefully displaced Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh to escape from the atrocities like, murder, rape and arson being committed by the Myanmar security forces. The latest exodus started from 25 August, 2017. Since then, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) more than 723,000 Rohingyas have crossed over to Bangladesh. Records suggest that the Rohingyas have been subjected to similar kind of crimes against humanity leading to ethnic cleansing for more than a decade.

Presently there are more than a million Rohingyas living in different camps in Bangladesh. Though agreements have been signed with the Myanmar government for the safe return of the Rohingyas to their homeland but they are still not been repatriated for the alleged non-cooperation, on a number of pretexts, by the Myanmar government.

The prolonged stay of the Rohingyas poses a number of challenges to Bangladesh. This is causing a severe burden on the national exchequer as the Bangladesh government is providing basic necessities of life like food, shelter, healthcare to them. However, assistances are being provided by different countries and international agencies for the said purposes. But these need to be supplemented by Bangladesh government resources. Their prolonged stay here would require more resources.

It has been the experience of different countries that hosted refugees at different points of time, the international supports wane with time if the crises persist. In this kind of situations, the ultimate financial burden of humanitarian assistance falls on the host country. Bangladesh also experienced similar situation with the earlier forcefully displaced Rohingyas those were not taken back or repatriated by the Myanmar government. The Rohingya camps are in Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf region. These camps are adjacent or very close to the settlements of the local citizens. These camps are challenges to peace and social harmony. There have been cases of conflict of interests among various groups of the Rohingyas and the local communities on the question especially of local resource sharing. These incidences are posing serious threats to peace and harmony in the region.

There has been large scale environmental degradation in the area due to indiscriminate felling of trees, cutting of hills and clearing of forest lands. Over exploitation of natural resources to support the livelihoods of the Rohingyas have been causing serious negative impacts on the local environment. This degradation in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf region which is a fast developing premier tourist destination of the country has started negatively impacting the local tourism industry and causing problems for its further growth and development. Security is another concern for Bangladesh. There are reports that many local and international terror organisations are trying to make inroads among the Rohingyas. These organisations are trying to use the Rohingyas for terror purposes which has become a serious terrorist threat particularly to Bangladesh.

There is also the possibility of committing terrorist acts in the international arena as many of Rohingyas have already been relocated in different countries of the world. They could establish a terror network in different countries. It is reported that in the Rohingya settlement areas the ‘Yaba’ trade has increased and allegations are also made that some of the Rohingya displaced persons are actively involved in such trades. Increase in human trafficking is another danger that has become a concern too.

Diplomatically Bangladesh has been active on the Rohingya issue especially from the very beginning of the current crisis. The issue was taken to the international arena. But it was interesting as well as surprising to note that that the regional and super powers like India, China, Russia and United States of America did not react or tried earnestly to stop these atrocities committed against civilian population including women and children. It is alleged that their national interests have overtaken humanitarian considerations. Humanitarian crisis are events that are threatening to life, safety, security and livelihood of people and national interests include claims, objectives, goals, demands and interests of a nation that it tries to preserve, protect, defend and secure.

In this case, the immediate national interest holders are Myanmar, China, India and the USA. The interest lies to the fact that Myanmar has quite sizeable reserve of oil and gas, and China and India particularly want to get hold of those crucial resources much needed for their accelerated economic growth. In terms of market potential, the prospect is quite huge in terms of total number of populations of Myanmar. All these countries mentioned earlier have an eye on the emerging market of Myanmar. Again, Myanmar is strategically located next to India and China’s rival for dominance.

In this case, the United States would be happier to have Myanmar on its side along with India to minimise rising Chinese influences in the region. Myanmar’s strategic location on a trijunction between South Asia, Southeast Asia and China is economically and strategically significant to especially China and India. Strategically, Myanmar can offer opportunity to China to ensure its strategic presence in the Indian Ocean. In this case, India also has an important stake along with China. However, other nations those matter in the international arena including the UN agencies came forward with assistances and supports. The USA, China and India also provided assistances in the form of aids to the cause of the Rohingyas. Under international pressure, the Myanmar government had to sign agreement with Bangladesh to take back the Rohingyas. But it did not bore any fruit yet.

Now it is evident that the Myanmar government is not at all keen to take them back. The Rohingyas are also very reluctant to go back because of lack of security and the absence of favourable and conducive environment. Here it should be mentioned that such environment needs to be created by the Myanmar government as per the provisions of the agreement. The diplomatic pursuit of the Bangladesh government to peacefully resolve the humanitarian crisis is continuing. In recent times, it has been further intensified. The honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has undertaken the issue as one of her prime agenda in her talks with world leaders. She raised the issue in the UN General Assembly and made a number of recommendations for the solution of the problem. She took up the issue with the Japanese Prime minister during her recent visit to Japan. In the just concluded OIC summit held in Makkah, Saudi Arabia she urged for OIC’s support to take the case of the Rohingyas to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

It has been learned from newspaper reports that she is going to talk to the Chinese leadership on the repatriation of the Rohingyas during her forthcoming visit to China. It appears that in any future meeting with the Indian reelected leadership the possible way out or solution to the Rohingya problem will receive due prominence. All these developments speak that continuous and vigorous diplomatic initiatives need to be ceaselessly pursued by the government to put international pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas. Slacken and half-hearted diplomatic efforts will led to the death of a rightful cause and Rohingyas will be ‘forgotten and written off’ by the world community like many others that happened in the past leaving Bangladesh to bear the burden that she can hardly afford to do without putting at peril the peace, security and development of the country.

(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude).

 The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka and Member, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh.                                                                                                                           

Source: https://www.daily-sun.com/post/400021/2019/06/17/Rohingyas:-Forgotten-or-Written-Off

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The Rohingya: The Latest Massacre in a Violence-Filled


The Rohingya: The Latest Massacre in a Violence-Filled

Published on  Sunday, 1 October 2017 14:12  Share on 16 June 2019

Usaid Siddiqui


The recent escalation of violence against the Rohingya beginning in August this year has seen hundreds of thousands of Rohingya displaced and approximately 1,000 people killed as the Aung San Suu Kyi government and the Burmese military conduct an offensive in the Rohingya-dominated Rakhine province.

Since 25 August, a staggering 400,000 Rohingya have been displaced from the Northern Rakhine province into neighbouring Bangladesh [Getty Images]

Since 25 August, a staggering 400,000 Rohingya have been displaced from the Northern Rakhine province into neighbouring Bangladesh.(1) Close to 40% of the villages where the Rohingya previously resided have been vacated. “The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations Chief of Human Rights at a recent address in Geneva regarding the crisis facing the Rohingya Muslim in Burma.(2) President Emmanuel Macron of France likened the situation to a genocide.(3)

Anger across the globe has been unanimous. Fellow Nobel Laureate and child education activist Malala Yousafzai demanded that Burmese state counsellor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi speak up and bring an end to the violence that has left hundreds of Rohingya people dead. So far, Suu Kyi has remained steadfast in defending her government. The counsellor claimed days after the crisis began that “terrorists” were to blame for the recent upheaval for spreading “a huge iceberg of misinformation”.(4) While this remains the official narrative of the government, history speaks differently of what has transpired against the Rohingya; including the overtly racist and xenophobic policies that have led to the UN to claim the Rohingya as one of the most prosecuted minorities in the world.

This report will explore the history of the Rohingya crisis to explain how it has culminated into this recent spat of violence. What has been the reaction at the regional and international level will also be discussed. Finally, what the future holds for the Rohingya and their future in Burma will be briefly outlined.

Roots of the Rohingya Crisis

The Rohingya are not included in the 135 ethnic groups recognised by the Burmese government. The group is considered an illegal entity, accused by the government of being foreigners from neighbouring Bangladesh, referring to them as ‘Bengalis’, which is used as a pejorative to deny the existence of any indigenous Rohingya population in the country.

To the contrary, extensive evidence exists of the Rohingya’s presence in the Rakhine area as early as the 16th century.(5) In the 1800s, civil strife between local Buddhists and the Rohingya began with the advent of colonial powers bringing an influx of Rohingya workers into areas now part of modern day Burma.

While throughout the first half of the 20th century issues between the Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims continued, matters for the Rohingya worsened with the arrival of the military junta in 1962. In 1982, a law stripping the Rohingya of citizenship was passed, disenfranchising them of basic civil, labour and reproductive rights that they continue to lack in the post-military era.(6)

In the past five years, the Rohingya have managed to capture world headlines as a xenophobic campaign against them led by an ardent anti-Muslim group of monks intensified. One of the main groups leading the charge, the Ma Ba Tha, has a largely singular goal of eradicating Muslim influence in the country, perceived as a threat to the Buddhist identity of the state, despite only being 4% of the population.(7) Ashin Wirathu, the most prominent leader of the group, has gained worldwide notoriety for his overt Islamophobic propositions against the Rohingya and Muslims. Wirathu has advocated for the boycott of Muslim businesses in the country and put a proposal to the government to prevent Buddhist women from marrying Muslim men, at least not without the consent of their parents and that of local authorities.(8)

While the group claims to be a non-violent grassroots movement, it has supported every military action to rid the Rohingya from Rakhine. On 30 August, during this latest crisis, Wirathu told a group of protestors in the capital Yangon that, “Only the military’s commander-in-chief can protect the lives and the properties of the people…The military is the only one that can give a lesson to tame the Bengali terrorists”.(9) Last May in an interview with The Guardian, when asked about military abuses including the rape of Rohingya women, Wirathu responded, “Impossible. Their bodies are too disgusting”.(10)

Recent escalation and the role of the Burmese state

On 25 August 2017, several Burmese police check posts were attacked in Rakhine, according to the Burmese military, by a group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group of Rohingya militants, that according to the Burmese government left 12 police officers dead.(11)

Over the next few weeks, the military has been heavily involved in what is called clearance operations, which have encompassed burning down entire Rohingya villages and businesses and shooting at unarmed civilians including women and children. Based on satellite imaging data, Human Rights Watch reported that some 200 Rohingya villages have been burnt to the ground. The last major operation of this nature was last year in October 2016, where under similar circumstances of fighting between Burmese security forces and Rohingya resistance fighters, approximately 100,000 people fled the region into Bangladesh.(12)

For the time being, both the civilian government and the military forces are aligned in their tactics towards the Rohingya. State counsellor and de facto leader of the country Aung San Suu Kyi has backed the Burmese armed forces to conduct their armed raids in Rohingya dominated areas, failing to acknowledge any crimes committed by her country’s military.

In a national speech made in English in Yangon on 19 September meant to calm international public outrage, Suu Kyi claimed that it wasn’t clear why the exodus from Rakhine was taking place, a comment many view as a cover to protect the military from scrutiny.(13) Although she was once hailed as a champion of democracy and human rights by much of the world, the Rohingya crisis has tarnished her iconic status, now seen largely as an obstacle rather than an arbiter to resolving the crisis.

In the run up to the October 2015 election that brought her party to power, she refused any Muslim to contest the election from the NLD platform(14). Last year she banned the use of the word Rohingya by government officials, a move largely seen to appease Buddhist extremists in Rakhine. The Burmese Information ministry instructed their officials to refer to the Rohingya as “people who believe in Islam in Rakhine state”(15).

These decisions are reflective of the near absolute control of the military over the country’s Rohingya policy. The chief of the armed forces, remains free of scrutiny from the civilian government and even a world-renowned leader like Suu Kyi. Aaron Connelly, a research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney told CNN, that according to the Burmese constitution, “the commander-in-chief (of Myanmar’s Armed Forces) is his own boss, he doesn’t report to Aung San Suu Kyi. He can’t be fired”(16).

The 2008 Burmese constitution, drafted by the former regime, guarantees the military 25% of the seats in parliament, electing key cabinet posts like the defense and border ministries, and setting its own budget with no civilian oversight; and hence giving former generals and the armed forces flexibility in charting the course of Burma’s security policies, especially over the Rohingya(17). In March of this year, Burmese Army Chief General Min Aung Hlaing outlined his country’s said: “We have already let the world know that we don’t have Rohingya in our country…The Bengalis in Rakhine state are not Myanmar citizens and they are just people who come and stay in the country(18).

Around the same time Hlaing rebuked any talk that the Rohingya could be provided citizenship making clear that the army’s resolution to the conflict; and hence the obvious strategy as is being played out today is of continued physical cleansing the Rohingya in the Rakhine province.

Rohingya reaction

The Rohingya in the face of an excruciating tragedy have been overwhelmingly peaceful. The only form of resistance that exists is that in the form of small armed groups like the ARSA, whose only targets have been the military installations around Rakhine.

The ARSA which perturbs to have now existed for three odd years, has cited the incitement of the Burmese state as justified reason for their attacks. In a video statement uploaded on August 15th, days before the conflict began, the ARSA asserted that they had been in Rakhine for three years and “has not brought any harm or destruction to the life and properties of the Rakhine people and Rohingya”(19).

Despite the government’s prolonged accusations of the group being affiliates of already well-established terror groups from the Middle East or South Asia, the ARSA has outright rejected the allegations. The group in a statement posted on September 14th that they “no links with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), Lashkar-e-Taiba or any other transnational terrorist group”(20).

Dr. Maung Zarni, a long-time Burmese activist and scholar called the ARSA in an interview with Al Jazeera a group of “hopeless men who decided to form some kind of self-defence group and protect their people who are living in conditions akin to a Nazi concentration camp”(21). Regardless of the governments assertions that groups like ARSA present an existential threat to the state, their ability to fight is very limited, often relying on sticks, knives and a few stolen rifles.

Regional and International response

On the regional and international level, the crisis has sparked public outrage across the world. With the rise of social media, billions have witnessed the horrific images coming from Rakhine of hapless Rohingya refugees fleeing the country, navigating through dangerous trails and jungles to reach safety. Massive rallies from Canada to Malaysia have seen a rise in the profile of the Rohingya issue, with many political leaders taking a more vocal role in the conflict than in previous incidents.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose country has also had an influx of Rohingya escaping violence, on 9 September said, “Based on the reports we have received, [the Rohingya] are discriminated and no mercy is accorded to them…Actually, it is done in a planned manner so that they are tortured, discriminated, killed and raped”.(22)

Undoubtedly, the most affected by the crisis has been Burma’s northern neighbour, Bangladesh, where most of the hundreds and thousands of refugees have fled. The United Nations recently described the scenes at the border between the two countries as chaotic and held that “massive international assistance” was needed to provide for the Rohingya.(23) The government’s response in this current crisis has fared much better than that of last year in October where human rights groups alleged that the Bangladeshi government was resisting the influx of refugees.(24)

The United States, one of Suu Kyi’s closest allies, has also condemned the violence. At a UN peacekeeping meeting on 20 September, US Vice President Mike Pence pointed out the “terrible savagery” committed by the Burmese army against the Rohingya. “The images of the violence and its victims have shocked the American people, and decent people all over the world”, he maintained.(25)

However, Pence fell short of calling out Suu Kyi’s government, a cautious move, based on historical American-Burmese relations, and therefore not surprising. Suu Kyi’s close relations with previous White House administrations who strongly backed her struggles have sometimes kept the US government from taking a sterner line against her government. Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton praised the role of the US and her own efforts for Suu Kyi’s success in the November 2015 election calling it “an affirmation of the indispensable role the United States can and should play in the world as a champion of peace and progress”.(26)

Of its few supporters, China has been the only state that has fully backed the Myanmar government since the crisis began. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Myanmar had the right to protect its country again violent threats.(27) China has had a close relationship with the Burmese military since the days of the military, to whom the former supplied generous amounts of arms and established military installations in the country that helped the military regime consolidate its power over the country.(28)

Response from the Indian government, which is also a close ally of the Burmese government, has been rather dismissive, with fears being pushed by the Indian mainstream media and government ministers that there was potential of Rohingya terrorists entering the country. A court case in the Indian supreme court is currently deciding the fate of 40,000 Rohingya that the government has said it would deport.(29)

Nevertheless, noticing the gravity of the situation and public outrage across the globe, India also has recently softened its stance and called on the government to end persecution of the Rohingya.(30) China as well has asked for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, and has recently promised to relay the concerns of the Bangladeshi government vis-à-vis the Rohingya to the Myanmar government.(31)

While the Rohingya as a community have close to no political or material resources in their homeland or in diaspora to advocate for their cause; the increase in public awareness around the issue, which was lacking in previous years, is arguably the only silver lining in the overall catastrophic situation.

The future of the crisis

In the past, while the flare up against the Rohingya would garner headlines in the mainstream press, the momentum around the issue would eventually dissipate, with international bodies occupied with wars largely in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Syria.

However, with this latest conflict, evidently more heightened in its extremities than previous years, the Rohingya issue is likley to become a permanent fixture on a list of international crises that must be addressed urgently. Yet considering the geopolitical underpinnings of the conflict that include heavyweights like China firmly siding with the Burmese government, charting out consensual agreement on the issue will be difficult.

The prospects of a successful armed resistance are highly unlikely as the Rohingya will be unable to match the military resources of the Myanmar government – though with increasing violence committed against the community, Rohingya led struggles targeting the Burmese military will continue grow.

The Rohingyas’ best option at forcing the hand of the Suu Kyi-led government to halt its violent outbreaks rests with the worldwide public support, now firmly in their corner, and hoping that it harnesses into meaningful action by foreign governments and international institutions that hold the Myanmar government accountable for its transgressions against their community.


                                                                                                                                                    Usaid Siddiqui

Is a Canada-based freelance writer and researcher. He is a founding member of the Toronto-based consulting group 416LABS. He has previously written for Mic News, Washington Post, Al Jazeera America and others.


(1)   (2017) “More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh”, PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 16 September, www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/400000-rohingya-fled-bangladesh/ (accessed 20 September 2017).

(2)   (2017) Jamie Tarabay, “Myanmar government: Almost 40% of Rohingya villages are now empty”, CNN, 14 September, www.cnn.com/2017/09/14/asia/myanmar-rohingya-empty-villages/index.html (accessed 25 September 2017).

(3)   (2017) “UN human rights chief points to ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar”, UN News Centre, 11 September, www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57490#.Wcv141UrJhE (accessed 27 September 2017).

(4)   (2017) Michael Safi, “Aung San Suu Kyi says ‘terrorists’ are misinforming world about Myanmar violence”, The Guardian, 6 September, www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/06/aung-san-suu-kyi-blames-terrorists-for-misinformation-about-myanmar-violence (accessed 26 September 2017).

(5)   (2011) A. Ahsan Ullah, “Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh: Historical exclusions and contemporary marginalization”, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, no. 9.2: 139-161.

(6)   (2009) Chris Lewa, “North Arakan: an open prison for the Rohingya in Burma”, Forced Migration Review, no. 32 (2009): 11. 

(7)   (2015) Min Zin, “Anti-Muslim Violence in Burma: Why Now?”, Social Research: An International Quarterly, no. 82.2: 375-397. 

(8)   (2013) Lily Kuo, “2.5 million Burmese support a measure to restrict marriage between Muslims and Buddhists”, Quartz, 18 July, https://qz.com/105790/2-5-million-burmese-support-a-measure-to-restrict-marriage-between-muslims-and-buddhists/ (accessed 24 September 2017).

(9)   (2017) “Myanmar Buddhist nationalists seek tougher military crackdown on Rohingya ‘terrorists’”, The Japan Times, www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/31/asia-pacific/myanmar-buddhist-nationalists-seek-tougher-military-crackdown-rohingya-terrorists/(accessed 23 September 2017).

(10) (2017) Marella Oppenheim, “’It only takes one terrorist’: the Buddhist monk who reviles Myanmar’s Muslims”, The Guardian, 12 May, www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/12/only-takes-one-terrorist-buddhist-monk-reviles-myanmar-muslims-rohingya-refugees-ashin-wirathu (accessed 23 September 2017).

(11) (2017) Wa Lone and Shoon Naing, “At least 71 killed in Myanmar as Rohingya insurgents stage major attack”, Reuters, 25 Aug, www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya/at-least-71-killed-in-myanmar-as-rohingya-insurgents-stage-major-attack-idUSKCN1B507K (accessed 21 September 2017).

(12) (2016) Esther Htusan and Martha Mendoza, “Burmese soldiers accused of raping and killing Rohingya Muslims”, The Independent, 31 October, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/burma-soldiers-rohingya-muslims-rape-murder-accusations-a7388906.html (accessed 28 September 2017).

(13) (2017) “Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi ‘burying her head in the sand’ about Rakhine horrors”, Amnesty International, 19 September, www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/09/myanmar-aung-san-suu-kyi-burying-her-head-in-the-sand-about-rakhine-horrors/ (accessed 25 September 2017).

(14) (2015) Poppy McPherson, “No vote, no candidates: Myanmar’s Muslims barred from their own election,” The Guardian, 3 November, www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/03/no-vote-no-candidates-myanmars-muslims-barred-from-their-own-election (accessed 28 September 2017).

(15) (2016) Peter Lloyd, “Aung San Suu Kyi bans use of Rohingya name”, ABC News, 22 June, www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-22/aung-san-suu-kyi-bans-use-of-rohingya-name/7534410 (accessed 28 September 2017).

(16) (2017) Jamie Tarabay, “Myanmar’s military: The power Aung San Suu Kyi can’t control”, CNN, 24 September, www.cnn.com/2017/09/21/asia/myanmar-military-the-real-power/index.html (accessed 26 September 2017).

(17) (2016) “Why does military still keep 25% of the seats Myanmar parliament?”, BBC News, www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-35457290/why-does-military-still-keep-25-of-the-seats-myanmar-parliament (accessed 27 September 2017).

(18) (2017) “Myanmar Military Chief Defends Crackdown Against Rohingya in Rakhine State”, Radio Free Asia, 27 March, www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/myanmar-military-chief-defends-crackdown-against-rohingya-in-rakhine-state-03272017154143.html (accessed 27 September 2017).

(19) (2017) Faisal Edroos, “ARSA: Who are the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army?”, Al Jazeera English, 13 September, www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/myanmar-arakan-rohingya-salvation-army-170912060700394.html (accessed 27 September 2017).

(20) (2017) Faisal Edroos, “ARSA group denies links with al-Qaeda, ISIL and others”, Al Jazeera English, 14 September, www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/arsa-group-denies-links-al-qaeda-isil-170914094048024.html (accessed 25 September 2017).

(21) (2017) Jamie Tarabay, “Who are Myanmar’s militants? Five questions about ARSA”, CNN, 12 September, www.cnn.com/2017/09/12/asia/arsa-rohingya-militants-who-are-they/index.html (accessed 26 September 2017).

(22) (2017) “Malaysia PM Najib Razak says Rohingya face systematic atrocities in Myanmar”, Hindustan Times, 9 September, www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/malaysia-pm-najib-razak-says-rohingya-face-systematic-atrocities-in-myanmar/story-pNXVzxOi9CdlJUwVf9PkBJ.html (accessed 27 September 2017).

(23) (2017) “UNHCR: Bangladesh Needs ‘Massive International Assistance’ for Rohingya”, VOA News, 24 September, www.voanews.com/a/unhcr-bangladesh-needs-massive-international-assistance-for-rohingya/4042078.html (accessed 28 September 2017).

(24) (2016) Harriet Sherwood, “Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar ‘turned away by Bangladesh’”, The Guardian, 25 November, www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/25/rohingya-muslims-fleeing-myanmar-turned-away-by-bangladesh (accessed 27 September 2017).

(25) (2017) “Remarks by the Vice President to the UN Security Council”, The White House, 20 September, www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/09/20/remarks-vice-president-un-security-council (accessed 27 September 2017).

(26) (2015) Stephen Collinson, “Hillary Clinton celebrates Myanmar vote and her role in it”, CNN, 12 November, www.cnn.com/2015/11/12/politics/hillary-clinton-myanmar-election-role/index.html (accessed 27 September 2017).

(27) (2017) Ben Blanchard, “China offers support to Myanmar at U.N. amid Rohingya crisis”, Reuters, 19 September, www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-china/china-offers-support-to-myanmar-at-u-n-amid-rohingya-crisis-idUSKCN1BU070 (accessed 28 September 2017).

(28) (2001) David Arnott, “China-Burma Relations”, Challenges to Democratization in Burma (2001): 69-86.

(29) (2017) “India: Rohingya have ‘terror’ ties”, Al Jazeera English, 18 September, www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/india-rohingya-muslims-terror-ties-170918134840406.html (accessed 27 September 2017).

(30) (2017) “India Has Asked Myanmar to End Rohingya Persecution, Claims Bangladesh”, The Wire, 15 September, thewire.in/178015/india-myanmar-rohingya-swaraj-bangladesh/ (accessed 27 September 2017).

(31) (2017) “China will try to influence Myanmar to address Bangladesh concerns: AL leader”, bdnews24.combdnews24.com/politics/2017/09/25/china-will-try-to-influence-myanmar-to-address-bangladesh-concerns-awami-league-leader (accessed 27 September 2017).

Tags: AlJAZEERA REPORTS, Usaid Siddiqui, Roots of the Rohingya Crisis, role of the Burmese state, Regional and International response, The future of the crisis

Source: https://www.academia.edu/36603535/Refugee_crisis_in_Bangladesh.pdf

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya

The Safe Zone Concept

The Safe Zone Concept

Written By : P. Adem Caroll   Shared on 15 June 2019

The Safe Zone Concept

Thoughts Towards a Creative and Effective Application in The Rohingya Crisis

Burma Task Force White Paper Series

“I thank the members of the Security Council and also, the Secretary-General for their proactive attempts to stop atrocities and bring in peace and stability in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. I further call upon the United Nations and the international community to take immediate and effective measures for a permanent solution to this protracted Rohingya crisis.

The Myanmar army’s crackdown forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee their homes in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State for neighbouring Bangladesh. — File photo

In this regard, I propose the following actions:

First: Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State immediately and forever.

Second: Secretary General of the United Nations should immediately send a Fact-Finding Mission to Myanmar.

Third: All civilians irrespective of religion and ethnicity must be protected in Myanmar. For that, “safe zones” could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision.

Fourth: Ensure sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar.

Fifth: The recommendations of Kofi Annan Commission Report must be immediately implemented unconditionally and in its entirety.” [1]

 —— Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina, UN General Assembly, September 21, 2017 


Among the five points eloquently presented by Shaikh Hasina to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, the protection of the Rohingya people in “safe zones that could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision” remains somewhat controversial. Is this idea viable as a form of humanitarian intervention? How can it be implemented successfully? This short paper will begin what must become a much more in-depth examination of the concept of safe zones — their function, strengths and weaknesses.

In early September 2017, approximately two weeks after the start of the latest wave of mass displacement of Rohingya, the Government of Bangladesh sent the five-point proposal to confront the crisis with the Myanmar government. Through the International Committee of the Red Cross, Bangladesh asked to secure three areas in Rakhine, ancestral home to the Rohingya, suggesting that those displaced by the violence be relocated there under the supervision of an international organization, such as the United Nations. “The logic of the creation of such zones is that no Rohingya can come inside Bangladesh,” said Shahidul Haque, Bangladesh’s foreign secretary, the top civil servant in the foreign ministry.[2]

While the original logic may have been in part to slow down the exodus of refugees into Bangladesh, the Myanmar government did not cooperate and very soon events overtook Bangladesh policymakers, with over 600,000 Rohingya refugees flooding into their nation within only seven weeks, fleeing mass atrocity crimes by the Burmese military and Rakhine vigilante groups.

Nevertheless, the concept of safe zones persisted, linked to the delivery of aid and to the possibility of eventual repatriation. For example, Bangladesh Finance Minister AMA Muhith has urged the international community to push Myanmar into creating a “safe zone,” with a UN peacekeeping force to guard the zone and also prevent the “rogue Myanmar army” from interference.[3]

Some human rights advocates in the international community also began to support the concept. For example, Attorney Azril Mohd Amin, CEO of the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy in Malaysia, stated that Malaysia’s effort in sending a humanitarian mission would be more meaningful if the safe zone could be created: “This mechanism will guarantee a proper channeling of aid to ensure that it will reach its target and to provide a strategic platform for a long-term solution to the long-standing humanitarian crisis suffered by the Rohingya Muslims.”  However, Azril noted that the creation of such a safe zone would require the approval from Myanmar, and that other nations would need to assist: “Since the country is too stubborn to comply with any international law on the protection of the lives of civilians, it is quite difficult if Bangladesh is left alone to ensure that the proposed creation of the safe zone is well implemented.”[4]

Many objections refer to the mixed success of past interventions. Indeed, Srebrenica is still a byword for when safe zones go wrong. And the Libya intervention seemed to many observers to conflate regime change with responsibility to protect.  Therefore, the next section will compare the strengths and weaknesses of several safe zones and humanitarian corridors, terms often used interchangeably but with different functions.

Strengths and Weaknesses in Previous Safe Zones Models

At the end of the Gulf War in 1991, more than 1 million Kurds fled the persecution of Saddam Hussein to Iran, while 400,000 tried to enter Turkey but were stopped at the border, forced to remain inside an unstable Iraq within a new “safe zone.” Interpreting authorization under UN Security Council Resolution 688 calling for access for “international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq,” the United States, France, and Britain sent in troops to help, and a no-fly zone was established through “Operation Provide Comfort.” Despite later Turkish incursions, many lives were saved.

Peacekeepers or even the involvement of coalition forces—have helped determine the relative success of safe zones. Following the ethnic cleansing of the Albanian Kosovars in 1998, UNHCR was able to repatriate 800,000 of 850,000 displaced people within a year. One reason for this success was the persuasive force of NATO bombing, and another the active role of KFOR troops in the region. Nevertheless, during this period, soldiers were still unable to prevent over 700 local Serbs from being murdered in retaliation.[5]

The strength of the peacekeepers’ mandate will determine success. The scandal of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia is well known. Due to weak rules of engagement UN peacekeepers failed to protect over 8,000 Bosnian men who were massacred close by their compound.

Implementation of safe zones in Darfur, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Central African Republic have been politized and inconsistent. Along with various scandals attaching to UN peacekeeping operations, this very mixed record has damaged the credibility of the humanitarian concept of safe zone. Gareth Evans, Australia’s former foreign minister, has observed, “What punctured the optimism that the world might be on its way to ending internal mass atrocity crimes once and for all is the controversy that erupted in the security council in 2011 about the way the norm was applied in the NATO-led intervention in Libya, and the paralysis that in turn generated in the council’s response to Syria.”[6]

An especially complex example of political discourse around safe zones relates to the civil war in Syria, which has raged since 2011, displacing over 10 million people. During this time, the UN Security Council failed to adequately respond, passing resolutions on humanitarian access, peace talks and chemical weapons in Syria that have never been fully implemented. Moreover, Russia and China have jointly vetoed six UNSC draft resolutions and Russia has independently vetoed a further two resolutions on humanitarian matters.

In the USA, both Republicans and Democrats have advocated for implementing safe zones in Syria. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made safe zones part of her foreign policy platform during her 2016 presidential campaign, and prominent Republican figures like Senators. Marco Rubio[7], Lindsey Graham, and John McCain have all advocated for the policy. As a candidate, Donald Trump claimed that Clinton’s support for safe zones would “start World War Three” with Russia.[8] But in January 2017, newly elected President Donald Trump announced he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria,”[9] though the policy was thought by some a convenient way of keeping more refugees out of the United States. Within a week, he withdrew this policy[10]  but again, on March 22, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the United States would set up “interim zones of stability” in Syria.[11]

A range of world leaders have continued to call for safe zones or humanitarian corridors in Syria to allow trapped civilian populations to escape or to receive emergency supplies.  For example, Turkey has backed such a policy for years, and even controlled a strip of land in Syria along its border as a de facto safe zone for internally displaced people. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also supported potential safe zones along the Turkey-Syria border.

Analyst Lorenzo Trombetta explains de facto zones of control in Syria as part of a strategy to further political and military goals rather than a method of civilian protection. As he puts it, “These existing zones are either formally or informally under the control of regional powers and their Syrian proxies. The foreign players justify their military, political, economic and, in some cases, cultural and sectarian influence on these Syrian territories under the premise that they are fighting terrorism.”[12]

To this critique, Human Rights Watch adds the following criticisms of Safe Zone implementation thus far: “Parties establishing safe zones may intend to use them to prevent fleeing civilians from crossing borders, rather than to genuinely provide protection…There may also be pressures on humanitarian agencies to cooperate with military forces that control access to safe zones in ways that compromise their humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.” HRW also suggests that safe zones also suffer from the same problems faced by camps for internally displaced persons. Residents may not be able to access work or their farms, for example, and so will be dependent on assistance for food, water, and other services, including health care.[13]

In international Human Rights Law[14][15] both the Geneva Conventions and Protocol explicitly rely on the consent of all parties to the conflict.[16] However safe zones may be designed to protect against the State itself (especially if the zone has been established by the Security Council under Chapter VII). For example, the 1991 Iraq Safe Zone for the Kurds did not conform to the traditional model of safe zones where the parties to the conflict agree that a specific location will not be subject to attack. The only clear alternative to obtaining consent is through a binding UN Security Council resolution, which could declare a safe zone without the consent of all parties, as it did in the creation of six safe areas during the Balkans conflict in 1993[17].

However, Russia and China have resisted supporting such measures in recent years. Moreover, if a safe zone is created by the Security Council without a State’s consent, this may lead to operational difficulties for UNHCR despite having supervisory functions over those countries under Article 35 of the Refugee Convention. It may not be easy for the international community to enforce standards against the country in which safe zones are located, given that continuing cooperation is essential. UNHCR has struggled at times to ensure a continued presence while still being able to criticize the State as needed, in case of incursions, interference, recruitment, trafficking or attack.

Regarding the option of a Bangladesh incursion to clear mines and even the establishment of safe zones without consent, such a move might be politically popular in Bangladesh, but would face potential backlash in Myanmar and in any case not convince the government of Aung San Suu Kyi to restore Rohingya rights. It might even become a pretext for Myanmar to abandon the Kofi Annan roadmap entirely.

Concepts Supporting Safe Zones in International Law

International law relating to peacekeeping operations is also relevant to safe zone protection.[18] The 2015 High-Level Independent Review Panel on UN Peace Operations (HIPPO) recommendations and Kigali Principles offer practical guidance to address current challenges in peacekeeping. Over 40 nations have endorsed these principles, including Bangladesh, but not Myanmar.[19]

However, an important addition to human rights architecture, the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, which serves as the foundation of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle states that the “international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”[20]

In the case of Darfur, the Security Council “invited” Sudan to consent to the deployment of UN troops in 2006. Resolution 1706 was the first time that the Security Council referred to the responsibility to protect in a specific country where armed UN peacekeepers are to be deployed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which allows the council to take any military means necessary to restore international peace and security. Three Security Council members abstained from the vote: China, Russia, and Qatar, but the measured carried.

International refugee protections are aligned with R2P principles. For example, in 2016, UN member states emphasized in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants that: “host States have the primary responsibility to ensure the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements. We will work to ensure that this character is not compromised by the presence or activities of armed elements and to ensure that camps are not used for purposes that are incompatible with their civilian character.”[21]

Safe zones may indeed resemble refugee camps. UNHCR’s Executive Committee (ExCom), has established relevant criteria for refugee camps to ensure safety. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the international community has demanded Rohingya repatriation to their original villages and lands despite ominous signs that Myanmar plans to house them in IDP camps[22].

Applicability and Adaptability of Safe Zone Concept to Protecting Rohingya in Myanmar

While R2P principles are supported by every UN member nation, not every nation state is comfortable with limits to sovereignty or has the political will to act, in this case, to stop the mass atrocities in Myanmar. Nor are all NGOs comfortable with the risk involved, mostly due to the history of mismanagement as well as the impact of safe zones on such international legal norms as “non-refoulement” which assert that safe haven is a human right for refugees fleeing conflict.

 In Bangladesh or elsewhere, we don’t want to live a life of humiliation as refugees,’ says prominent Rohingya group head

Human Rights Watch has expressed strong doubts on the possibility of safe implementation of safe zones. [23] Several March 2017 articles quote highly critical statements by their longtime Refugee Program Director Bill Frelick, focused on Syria.[24]  And in September 2017 HRW Asia Fellow Richard Weir wrote an equally skeptical article focusing on Myanmar. HRW is understandably concerned that conditions within “safe zones” could be as bad, “if not worse”, than in refugee camps across the border.  Moreover, regarding Myanmar, Mr. Weir states, “Given the Burmese military’s brutal and unrelenting campaign against the Rohingya, no one should be under any illusion that it will allow a “safe zone” to actually be safe.” While such skepticism is understandable, these discussions do not consider the role of UN Peacekeepers in depth, and Mr. Weir does not mention them at all.[25]

Currently, there is no access to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who are trapped in dire conditions in the mountains of Rakhine State. They are at immediate risk. At the same time, the continuing flood of refugees into Bangladesh will be a major burden on the international community. Despite Myanmar government assurances, it seems highly unlikely that these families (half are children) will be allowed back to their homes in the next several years, at best. A long period of life in refugee camps may provide “safety” –but without jobs, education and integration into the wider society, life will inevitably be an impoverished and a form of imprisonment.  Given the lack of more positive alternatives, analysts at Human Rights Watch and other think tanks might ask how a successful safe zone may be possible, not if it can be possible.

It is very likely that any international presence in Myanmar would be met with a strong nationalist outcry. Indeed, for the last several years UN and humanitarian groups have been attacked both physically and in the media, and in the case of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) expelled from the country for almost one year. Moreover, during the first week of the recent military clearance, the Myanmar government itself moved to link the UN agencies to “terrorism.”  In North Rakhine State the military has trained and supported vigilante groups that have committed many atrocities. Without a change of strategy, keeping Rohingya safe despite this xenophobic messaging will require a much stronger peacekeeping contingent, preferably from diverse ASEAN nations.

It is difficult to discern good faith efforts by the current Myanmar Government. Even the ministerial committee to follow up on the Kofi Annan-led Commission recommendations is co-led by Vice Chair Dr. Win Mya Aye, the same Minister for Social Development, Relief and Resettlement who has stated that all 220 burned or abandoned Rohingya villages will be confiscated by the State.[26] Permitting Myanmar to restrict peacekeeper movements or mission within the zone in any way would certainly make Rohingya less safe. Crucially, safe zones or humanitarian corridors must allow for Rohingya repatriation back to the original villages and lands in Rakhine State, as the International Community is demanding. Success depends on the strength of political will as well as availability of sustainable resources.

To conclude; the recent report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights describes “vicious, well-organized, coordinated and systematic attacks by Myanmar security forces.[27]” The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh has called the current situation a “genocide” and many experts agree.[28][29] Among others, UN experts have stated that “the Government of Myanmar has failed to meet its obligations under international law and primary responsibility to protect the Rohingya population from atrocity crimes” which are defined in the letter as including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”[30]

It is crucial for the United Nations, and for its member nations, to embrace the principle of R2P as they are legally obligated to do when confronted with mass atrocities. This requires effective action, which is long overdue, along with the credible threat of action. Western nations fear weakening Myanmar’s fragile, imperfect democracy through their actions. But in the short run, sanctions, arms and embargos and other punitive measures may make Aung San Suu Kyi more popular with nationalist followers, not less so. In our view, such necessary measures will not weaken her politically in relation to the military partners in her government.  This stronger position may possibly allow her to take some political risks, such as allowing Rohingya repatriation.

Provided there are short and long-term strategic plans in place, and avoiding the many pitfalls, Bangladesh may wish to incorporate elements of the safe zone concept into its planning for eventual repatriation, with a timeline and a solid plan for safe implementation.


[1] https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/bd_en.pdf

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-bangladesh-analysis/bangladesh-wants-safe-zones-to-ease-rohingya-crisis-but-seen-unlikely-idUSKCN1BJ1C6

[3] http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/09/05/muhith-rohingya-need-put-safe-zone-myanmar/

[4] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/rights-group-chief-malaysia-should-play-a-role-in-creation-of-safe-zone-in#5c3M4oLD5xVcLXbl.97

[5] http://www.osce.org/kosovo/129321?download=true

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/04/un-syria-duty-to-intervene

[7] http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/25/its-not-too-late-to-save-iraq-and-syria-marco-rubuio/

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/25/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-syria-world-war-three

[9] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-syria-safezones/trump-says-he-will-order-safe-zones-for-syria-idUSKBN1592O8  

[10] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-syria-safe-zones_us_5889175ae4b0024605fd95fb

[11] http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/22/tillersons-push-for-safe-zones-in-iraq-and-syria-faces-questions-obstacles/

[12] https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2017/03/13/analysis-de-facto-safe-zones-already-exist-along-syrias-borders

[13] https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/16/q-safe-zones-and-armed-conflict-syria#_If_parties_agree

[14] https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Article.xsp?action=openDocument&documentId=237F1A81D86D8B9AC12563CD0051A07F

[15] https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Article.xsp?action=openDocument&documentId=3E13C5E778F6842BC12563CD0051BACB

[16] http://atha.se/blog/havens-or-targets-would-syria-benefit-humanitarian-safe-zone

[17] http://www.nytimes.com/1993/05/07/world/conflict-balkans-un-resolution-establishes-safe-areas-but-lacks-enforcement.html

[18] http://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/Policy_brief_Creating_safe_zones_and_safe_corridors.pdf  p. 6

[19] http://www.globalr2p.org/media/files/kp-principles-17-november-2016.pdf

[20] http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/component/content/article/35-r2pcs-topics/398-general-assembly-r2p-excerpt-from-outcome-document

[21] P. 8 see footnote 18

[22] http://www.dhakatribune.com/world/south-asia/2017/10/24/hrw-myanmar-building-detention-camps-rohingya/

[23] https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/16/q-safe-zones-and-armed-conflict-syria#_If_parties_agree

[24] http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/30/there-are-no-real-safe-zones-and-there-never-have-been-syria-iraq-bosnia-rwanda/

[25] https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/23/safe-zones-rohingya-refugees-burma-could-be-dangerous

[26] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya/government-will-take-over-burned-myanmar-land-minister-idUSKCN1C20OU

[27] http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/MM/CXBMissionSummaryFindingsOctober2017.pdf


[29] https://tribunalonmyanmar.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/PPT-on-Myanmar-Preliminary-Judgment_edited-27-Sept.pdf

[30] http://yangon.sites.unicnetwork.org/2017/10/19/statement-by-adama-dieng-united-nations-special-adviser-on-the-prevention-of-genocide-and-ivan-simonovic-united-nations-special-adviser-on-the-responsibility-to-protect-on-the-situation-in-northern/

 Tags:  Safe Zone Concept, Rohingya Crisis,  P. Adem Caroll, burmataskforce

 Source: https://www.burmataskforce.org/safe-zone-concept 

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Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya

Myanmar is playing foul with Rohingya issue

 Myanmar is playing foul with Rohingya issue

 June 11, 2019  0 Comments ARSAISISMyanmar > ShareTweet

 By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Myanmar is playing foul with Rohingya issue

 As part of her relentless efforts of resolving the long-standing Rohingya refugee issue with Myanmar, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to visit China during the first week of July. Earlier on June 9, 2019, during her press conference, Bangladesh Prime Minister accused Myanmar of being reluctant in repatriating their over a million Rohingya nationals defying their promise and feared that some international aid agencies to tend to keep the crisis alive.

She said, “The problem lies with Myanmar as they don’t want to take back the Rohingyas by any means though Naypyidaw signed an agreement with Bangladesh promising to repatriate them”. The Bangladesh premier simultaneously feared that some international aid and voluntary agencies too were unwilling to resolve the crisis saying, “They never want the refugees to return their home”.

The Rohingya is an ethnic minority group in Myanmar. Being denied citizenship, hundreds and thousands of Rohingyas have crossed into neighboring Bangladesh, putting unbalanced pressure on its scarce resources. While most studies explain why and how insecurity produces refugees, the opposite process – how refugees produce conflict, dilemma, and insecurity in their host country – is also worthy of study. This article argues that the Rohingya crisis is no longer only a humanitarian calamity but a potential threat to Bangladesh’s internal stability. Bangladesh finds itself in a fix trying to fulfill the national interests of the country, and uphold human security issues of Rohingya.

Asked for comments about a perception that three major countries – China, Japan and India – took Myanmar’s side in the crisis, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, Dhaka separately held talks with these countries when they all acknowledged Rohingyas to be Myanmar nationals and agreed should return there.

 How the Rohingya crisis is affecting Bangladesh?

As of February 2018, the United Nations estimates that almost 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled Burma’s violent campaign of ethnic cleansing. Almost universally, they’ve moved into refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

That is straining Bangladesh, which has absorbed a remarkable number of people in just six months, leading to desperately cramped conditions in the camps. Bangladesh is a small, low-lying, under-resourced and densely populated country. And it’s leaders and citizens are growing impatient with the fallout of Burma’s purge of the Rohingya.

In 2017, due to massive violence and genocide committed by the Myanmar army with the help of radical Buddhist populace, hundreds and thousands of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh thus creating a massive refugee crisis. This is the highest number of refugees in the world. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, being sympathetic to the repressed and persecuted Rohingyas has ordered to open country’s borders with neighboring Myanmar. Later, under her leadership, Bangladesh made all-out efforts in getting international support in resolving the crisis. But, until now, there are no such actions initiated by the international community except mere lip-service.

On the Rohingya crisis, unfortunately, China and India are clearly standing behind repressive Myanmar authorities, which has possibly forced Bangladesh government in reaching into a controversial arrangement with Myanmar. Diplomatic analysts are seeing this written arrangement as suicidal, since the terms are ambiguous and impractical as Dhaka was insisting repatriation of the refugees within 24 months. Moreover, Dhaka did not consult any international organization or the Rohingya refugees before penning this arrangement. Many Rohingyas were apprehensive of hastily forced repatriation.

Security concerns:

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an Islamist militancy group, whose attacks on Burmese security posts triggered the Myanmar army’s indiscriminate “clearance operations,” has already pledged to continue its insurgent campaign against what it calls “Burmese state-sponsored terrorism.” The Bangladeshi security establishment is concerned both that ARSA will try to recruit within camps, and that it will use the camps as a base for cross-border fighting.

There had always been a big question about any connections between ARSA and regional or international terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Joish-e-Mohammed (JeM), etc. On January 23, 2017, Al Qaeda in the subcontinent issued a declaration urging Bangladeshi Muslims to mount an armed rebellion in support of the Rohingyas. A similar statement had also been repeated by other militancy groups.

The United Nations termed it as “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya in Myanmar while the Army over there said that military action is against terrorists and that they are not averse to civilians. Unqualified Rohingya refugees are unacceptable as they are regarded as a burden on the economy. A majority of the Buddhist community in Myanmar considers Rohingyas as illegal Bengali migrants. No citizenship rights were given to the Rohingyas and numerous restrictions were imposed on them. Rohingyas are Sunni Muslims and have fought for an independent country in the past. In 1947 and 1971, they struggled to join East Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively.

What is ARSA?

Rohingya Muslims have also constituted a few terrorist organizations, including the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (SRO), the Harkat-al Yaqin, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) to wage war and establish an independent Muslim state. Unfortunately, a few Muslim terrorist organizations, especially in Pakistan, started assisting these terrorist outfits. Besides Pakistan, few Muslim organizations in the Afro-Arab nations, such as Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, etc., also pumped petrodollars into the coffers of Rohingya terrorist outfits.

ARSA was formed by Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi, a Rohingya man born in Karachi, Pakistan and grew up in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Jununi, in a video posted online, stated, “Our primary objective under ARSA is to liberate out people from dehumanizing operation perpetrated by all successive Burmese regimes”. Although the groups claim themselves as ‘ethnic-nationalist’ and denied allegations of being Islamists, it follows many traditional Islamic practices such as having recruits swear an oath to the Quran, referring to the leader as emir and asking for fatwas [sermons] from foreign Muslim clerics.

The Islamic State (ISIS), which has put a massive hate material on the Internet, was able to recruit a few Rohingya Muslims who went to Syria and Iraq to fight in conjunction with the IS.  There are also reports that the IS and the Lashkar-e-Taiba are trying to recruit Rohingyas staying in Jammu while the Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent has also supported the Rohingyas.

AqaMul members, the terrorist outfit of Rohingya Muslims, has links with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan, Joish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba.  There are also reports that the Rohingyas, settled in Jammu illegally. A large number of NGOs, working with the Rohingyas, especially funded by Iran and Turkey, have Islamic extremist leanings and inculcate radicalism in them.

The ultimate consequence:

Clearly, Myanmar is playing an extreme nasty game centering the Rohingya refugee issue, while the world seems to be almost silently witnessing such notoriety. What no one possibly is realizing is – further delay in resolving the crisis may generate huge frustration within those over one million refugees and it would possibly push them towards becoming exposed to militancy groups such as ISIS in particular. And in that case, the ultimate result would be absolutely catastrophic. If the Rohingyas go into the grips of ISIS or other militancy groups – Myanmar, China and India will be the most affected countries and such rage may even cross beyond South Asia and get expanded up to the West. People need to remember, re-emergence of ISIS within the Rohingyas would actually be a much biggest challenge than ISIS in Iraq or Syria.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah Shoaib

 Source: https://www.weeklyblitz.net/news/myanmar-is-playing-foul-with-rohingya-issue/

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Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya
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