The world must stop Myanmar’s fresh Rohingya move

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The world must stop Myanmar’s fresh Rohingya move

Published: 00:00, Sep 05,2019 | Updated: 00:50, Sep 05,2019

AUTHORITIES reported to be forcing the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar at gunpoint to accept identity cards that categorise them as foreigners, stripping them of the chance to become citizens, certainly gives reasons for Bangladesh authorities and the world for concerns. Myanmar appears to have systematically stripped the minority Rohingyas, living mostly in Arakan, of their citizenship by way of the implementation of the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law that has not categorised the Rohingyas as one of the 135 legally recognised ethnic groups of Myanmar.

 The Myanmar authorities in their ploy that seems to have dated much before the implementation of the law had begun repression on and persecution of the Rohingyas, forcing them to begin fleeing torture and violence to Bangladesh as early as the late 1970s. After more than 400,000 Rohingyas having already left Myanmar for Bangladesh by the middle of 2017, the largest of the Rohingya influx began taking place in August that year, when a large-scale military crackdown and spate of violence began in Rakhine State against them. The influx since then has taken the total number of Rohingyas in Bangladesh to more than 1.1 million in all — more than 700,000 of them since 2017 — now sheltered in camps mostly in Cox’s Bazar.

 After much hullabaloo and phases of confusion mostly created by the Myanmar authorities through falsehood to deflect world pressure, arrangements were made for the repatriation of the Rohingyas. But efforts to repatriate the Rohingyas since August 2017 have faltered twice — in recent times on August 22, 2019 and earlier on November 15, 2018 — mostly because Myanmar kept creating a fearful situation for the Rohingyas in Rakhine State. The repatriation is to be safe, sustainable, dignified and voluntary but no one from the Rohingyas was willing to get back to Rakhine. The unwillingness appears to have stemmed from the torture and persecution — violence, rape, arson attack, unbridled murder and restrictions on movement and livelihood — that they faced at the hands of Myanmar’s military.

 Now that Myanmar is reported to be forcing the Rohingyas living there at gunpoint or through torture to accept the national verification cards, which ‘effectively identify them as foreigners’, is reflective of attempts at destroying the Rohingya people through an administrative process. Myanmar is also reported to have imposed restrictions on the Rohingya’s freedom of movement in the context of the verification card process. Such activities in turn would have serious implications for the prospects of the repatriation of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh, thwarting any repatriation initiatives in view of no security and citizenship for them in Myanmar. What is still happening centring on the Rohingyas in Myanmar appears to be a fresh ploy to frustrate any efforts for the repatriation of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh.

 Bangladesh authorities must, in a situation like this, take up the issue with regional and international forums, especially the United Nations, the forum of world leaders, and effectively impress on them to stop Myanmar from creating any fearful situation that could thwart Rohingya repatriation. Bangladesh authorities must also remain prepared against any probable untoward incident arising out Myanmar’s fresh ploy.

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The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Towards Sustainable Solutions


The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Towards Sustainable Solutions

By Professor Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed 

Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed is a Professor International Relation, University of Dhka


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

Support Rohingya island relocation or leave the country: Bangladesh to UN

Home > Rohingya Crisis
 12:22 PM, September 05, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:31 PM, September 05, 2019

Support Rohingya island relocation or leave the country: Bangladesh to UN

Rohingyas coming down from a boat carrying the refugees from Myanmar in August 2017. File photo: Reuters

 Star Online Report

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in an interview with a German media outlet – Deutsche Welle   ( DW). Photo:  Deutsche Welle ( DW).

In an interview with a German media outlet, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that the Bangladeshi government wants the United Nations aid agencies to support its plan to relocate 100,000 refugees to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.

 “The UN has failed to put enough pressure on Myanmar to take back the refugees. Dhaka wants UN agencies to accept the Rohingya island relocation plan or leave the South Asian country,” the minister told Deutsche Welle (DW) in an exclusive interview.

Here is the full interview published verbatim for our readers:

DW: Most Rohingya refugees do not want to return to Myanmar. Is that why you want to relocate them to the Bhasan Char island?

 AK Abdul Momen: I think it is time to relocate them to Bhasan Char. But the island cannot accommodate all of them; we can send only 100,000 refugees there. We didn’t want to repatriate them forcefully. We had hoped it would be done voluntarily.

The island offers economic activities to the refugees. But the aid agencies working in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp don’t want to move to Bhasan Char. In Cox’s Bazar, they stay in five-star hotels, so they don’t want to go to another place.


We are also identifying international non-government organizations that are politicalizing the Rohingya issue.

Does that mean that you would relocate Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char even if the UN agencies don’t support the plan?

 Yes, possibly. We have seized many leaflets, CDs and videos that urge Rohingya not to go back to Myanmar if certain demands are not met. Myanmar authorities have agreed to one of these demands: provide safety, security and mobility to the Rohingya people. Demands such as granting citizenship to Rohingya, punishment for people involved in the Rohingya massacre, recognizing Rohingya as an ethnic group, and allowing them to return to their own homes have not been met.

Can Bangladeshi authorities relocate 100,000 Rohingya to Bhasan Char without UN support?

We can do that.

How would the UN react to it?

 The UN has to agree to the plan or it can take the refugees with them. Already some of these people are getting involved in criminal activities.

The number of Rohingya refugees in the area is more than double than the number of local citizens. The local residents are increasingly complaining of criminal activities. We cannot allow that. That is why we could force their relocation.

Bangladesh is not a rich nation. We’re the world’s most densely populated country. Still we have done a lot for the Rohingya. It’s time for others to come forward because it is not just our problem. It’s an international issue, and had we not given them protection, they could have faced a genocide.

It sounds like a threat.

 We are willing to send them anywhere, to anyone who wants to take them. We cannot afford to keep them for years.

And if that doesn’t happen, would the refugees have to go to the Bhasan Char island?

 It would be a temporary arrangement. We cannot keep them there forever.

Can Bangladesh afford to antagonize the UN?

 The UN is not helping us much. They are not working to create a conducive environment in Mynamar’s Rakhine state. Why don’t these UN aid agencies work in Myanmar? They should go to Myanmar, especially to Rakhine state, to create conditions that could help these refugees to go back to their country. The UN is not doing the job that we expect them to do.

Would you expel the UN agencies if they don’t support your plan?

 We’ll do it if necessary.

The island is prone to cyclones. Is it safe for human inhabitation?

 It is safe. We have built embankments and beautiful houses there. If we tell Bangladeshi people to go there, they would definitely go there.

If the refugees move to Bhasan Char, will they be able to move freely or will they be contained on the island?

 I think they will move freely.

The interview was conducted by Naomi Conrad and Arafatul Islam in Dhaka on August 26, 2019.


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UN rights investigator on Myanmar lambasts Suu Kyi

An interview with AFP

UN rights investigator on Myanmar lambasts Suu Kyi

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Yanghee Lee, a university professor in Seoul who is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights to Myanmar, speaks during an interview with AFP in her office at Sung Kyun Kwan University in Seoul on Tuesday. Internet Photo

Seoul (AFP) : Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has washed her hands of the Rohingya crisis, a UN rights investigator said Tuesday ahead of a meeting between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and the tarnished democracy icon.

Yanghee Lee, a university professor in Seoul who is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights to Myanmar, said Suu Kyi was “terribly misguided and misinformed” about the abuses against the stateless Muslim minority in her country. The Nobel laureate was under house arrest for years when Myanmar was a military dictatorship before her party won elections in 2015 by a landslide, in the first fully free vote for generations.

Hopes were high that she would usher in a new era of freedom, but more than 740,000 Rohingya have since been driven out of the Buddhist-majority country and into Bangladesh in a 2017 army crackdown. The US in July banned Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing and other officers for their role in the campaign of “ethnic cleansing”.
Suu Kyi was spared from the sanctions but no longer deserved to be called a democracy activist, Lee told AFP.

“She should step up and really speak out for the treatment that the Rohingya had suffered for decades,” she told AFP. “It’s time for her to speak out and use the word, call them the way they identify themselves as the Rohingya.”
Myanmar calls the persecuted minority “Bengali”, treating them as illegal interlopers from Bangladesh and refusing to grant them citizenship or basic rights.

Lee-who has been banned from entering Myanmar over her criticism of its government-was speaking as South Korea’s Moon, a former democracy activist himself, was due to meet Suu Kyi later Tuesday as part of a tour of Southeast Asia.

South Korea is the sixth largest foreign investor in Myanmar, but Lee said that meant Seoul was “inadvertently contributing” to rights violations against Rohingya and urged Moon to be “principled” during the encounter.
“Our president enjoys a great history of being a human rights lawyer,” said Lee. “But I’m afraid he hasn’t been really speaking out for human rights for people.

“I think it’s a shame that we are joining the bandwagon of other countries that looks out for… their countries’ economic interest before the suffering of the people,” she said, describing the Rohingya crisis as the “worst case of ethnic genocide in the 21st century”.


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The intractable Rohingya repatriation

Home  > Opinion  > Op-Ed

The intractable Rohingya repatriation

 Ziauddin Choudhury > Published at 12:02 am September 4th, 2019

They can’t squat in camps forever. BIGSTOCK

Why repatriation is more complicated now than it was 40 years ago

The Myanmar government invited an estranged ethnic community — the Rohingya — back to their homeland, but they did not respond.

They have, in fact, spurned this invitation, citing their fears and apprehension of further oppression in their homeland, because they are still not recognized as citizens. This is an intractable situation, as the host government is losing its patience with the indefinite presence of a million plus refugees packed in a tiny sliver of land in an overpopulated country.

The situation has come to such a pass that even after the so-called bilateral agreement between the two countries, and scheduling of phased repatriation of the refugee with assurances of safety from Myanmar, the refugees have balked.

The planned date of the first repatriation came and went. Not a soul budged from the camps. In fact, the refugees have now turned into a rebellious group that will not allow any repatriation unless they have been given citizenship. And that is a demand that is not going to be fulfilled soon.

Bangladesh, it seems, for now, is stuck with the refugees. There is a historical parallel of this situation to something that happened some four decades ago with the first Rohingya immigration in 1978. I was deputy commissioner of Chittagong then, when the first exodus from Myanmar (then Burma) happened in April.

It started with a trickle, about a few hundred crossing Ukhiya border along with Myanmar. The border patrol could not stop the flow when the number exceeded a thousand. But once the flood gates were opened, no one could stop the flow. In a month’s time, the flow of refugees turned into a tide bringing the total to over 200,000.

Handling this large influx of refugees for a fledgling country that was only in its seventh year was a task of enormous proportion. International assistance was slow to arrive, but eventually with domestic resources and aid coming through the International Red Cross and UNHCR. 13 camps were set up in Cox’s Bazar subdivision, including one in Bandarban that held a little over 200,000 people.

The government made several momentous decisions at that time. Principal among which were to contain the refugees in designated camps only, to prevent refugee movement outside the camps with police patrol, to focus on their repatriation as early as possible after discussion with Myanmar, and manage all international relief through government officials in the camps.

Despite protests from international aid agencies working there, the strategies worked well, particularly the bilateral discussions with Myanmar officials.

There were three bilateral meetings with Myanmar following the first influx, one in Yangon, one in Dhaka, and one in Cox’s Bazar. The last was in Cox’s Bazar, which included visits to the refugee camps by Myanmar home minister, director-general immigration, and Myanmar ambassador to Bangladesh. I attended all meetings (excluding the Yangon meeting) and took the Myanmar delegation to the camps. The long and short of all these meetings was the happy agreement on repatriation without any condition from Myanmar side.

Nevertheless, the main reason why the Rohingya had left Arakan in 1978 was the Myanmar government operation known as Operation Nagamin (Dragon King) to identify illegal residents of Arakan.

The immigration officials, with the assistance of the army, conducted raids in Rohingya villages with brute force, leading to their mass departure for Bangladesh. In this act, the immigration officials of Arakan were more involved than the central government. This made the negotiations easier, and agreement for repatriation quicker, since the Burmese did not want more international attention to this problem.

The agreement was very quickly reached, but its implementation was not easy, mainly because of the refugees balking at the repatriation citing fear of oppression. The resistance was primarily voiced by Rohingya leaders who demanded many conditions for repatriation, including an international guarantee on their safe living in Arakan, a condition that could not be filled without having a separate homeland for them. The resistance first came in the shape of a quiet campaign in the camps against repatriation.

Secondly, the refugees refused to be enlisted in the repatriation register that we were required to create prior to repatriation. Thirdly, they assaulted the officials conducting the registration. This third act led to police action in which 13 refugees were killed after some police constables were injured.

What followed next was very bold action by the government. The police firing was regretted, and the refugees were assured of a judicial inquiry, but they were also told in no uncertain terms that the government would not tolerate any resistance to repatriation. The refugees will have to register, and they would be required to return as agreed with Myanmar.

Things went smoothly thereon, until the actual date of the first repatriation, which I believe was later part of 1978. For first or token repatriation, we had selected 40 people, who had volunteered to be repatriated and they were kept in a camp adjoining the border.

The night before the repatriation, some refugee leaders of that camp surrounded the police post with machetes and sticks and demanded that the repatriation be stopped. They actually overtook the post, captured all rifles, and asked the police to leave the camp.

It is a long story of how the rebellion was stopped by us, but in the end, we were able to maneuver in a hostage negotiation style and succeeded in recapturing the post and getting the rifles back. I conducted the discussions through emissaries and obtained the control of the camp after assuring (falsely) that we would stop the repatriation.

Meanwhile, when the discussions were underway, we had deployed one full battalion of armed police around the camp, which we revealed after we took back control of the camp. It was easy later to transport the selected repatriates to another camp and take them from there to the designated repatriation outpost. I myself took them across the border and handed them to the Myanmar authorities.

But that parallel will not guide us in our current plight. That time we were dealing only 200,000 refugees. We were not tackling a population of over a million. That time, we were able to resolve bilaterally our problem without much international intervention. Now, many actors are involved, aside from international organizations, India, China, even the US. That time, we dealt with a fledgling Rohingya movement, which has now morphed into a full-fledged international movement.

Therefore, what we could do 40 years ago we cannot get away with now. We cannot force the Rohingya to move to Myanmar unless their leaders are convinced that they would be safe there. But what we can do now is get more international support for repatriation, including strong pressure on Rohingya leaders to accept voluntary repatriation as the only means for their future. This support has to come from UN agencies working there as well as other countries which have influence on Myanmar.

This can make the repatriation a more drawn out process, but it is better than having a million plus refugees squatting in camps for an indefinite period.

 Ziauddin Choudhury has worked in the higher civil service of Bangladesh early in his career, and later for the World Bank in the US.

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Changing From International Intervention to Protection

                                                       September 3 at 2:31 PM

 Changing From International Intervention to Protection

By Aman Ullah

 One of the core demands of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is that, they will return only if international protection is in place.

 In the recent statement of the ministry of foreign affairs of Bangladesh also mentioned that, Bangladesh is seriously consider engaging the international community for creating an environment conducive to their return as well as for monitoring the repatriation and reintegration process.

According to the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, the brutal tactic of military of Myanmar was so severe in Rakhine State, during the “clearance operations” of 2017, that it was a factor indicating the Myanmar military’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya population.

The Mission made its conclusions in a new report, released on Aug 22 in New York, that soldiers routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights law.

“Extreme physical violence, the openness in which it is conducted … reflects a widespread culture of tolerance towards humiliation and the deliberate infliction of severe physical and mental pain or suffering on civilians,” the report said.

Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, demonstrated its genocidal intent against the Rohingya population “through the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injuries to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh, and so severely injuring victims that they may be unable to have sexual intercourse with their husbands or to conceive and leaving them concerned that they would no longer be able to have children,” the report said.

The majority of assaults reported were directed at women and girls who were beaten, burned with cigarettes, slashed with knives, raped and held as sexual slaves on military bases. The report also documents cases of rape, forced nudity and the sexual torture of men and boys.

Many of these acts amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Yet, the Myanmar Government has failed to cease, prevent and take action against sexual and gender-based violence in the country, or hold those responsible to account.

With hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees still trapped in Bangladesh, too fearful to return home, the report should serve as an important reminder of the need for accountability of perpetrators and justice for victims. It makes a call to action to the Government of Myanmar, the Security Council and the international community to make accountability for these grave crimes an urgent priority.

Despite the government’s withholding of justice, the international community has failed to take necessary action to protect Muslim victims. Though, the United Nations has acknowledged the role of Burmese authorities in “widespread” and “systematic” attacks against Muslims that “may constitute crimes against humanity.”

These violations perpetrated primarily by state actors on a widespread and systematic basis, rise to the level of crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes – three of the four crimes states committed themselves to protect populations from in endorsing the responsibility to protect (R2P) at the 2005 World Summit.

Why the Responsibility to Protect, R2P?

 The political uprisings in Libya and the Libyan government’s brutal repression are reminders that the world is far from achieving “freedom from fear”, one of the grounding purposes for the establishment of the United Nations in 1945.

Often in the twentieth century, crimes against humanity provoked condemnation. The world has said “never again” many times. In reality, however, “again and again” would be a more accurate description. As each subsequent slaughter has occurred, in places like Rwanda and the Balkans, little has been done to prevent or avert mass atrocities.

The R2P norm grew out of events in the 1990s, such as the Rwandan genocide and the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. In both of these cases, the international community did not effectively prevent or respond to the gross human rights violations perpetrated against populations within the two sovereign states. These unfortunate events made it apparent that state sovereignty alone should not prevent the international community from responding to humanitarian crises. The norm focuses on the “victims’ point of view and interests, rather than questionable [state-centered] motivations.”

In 2000, and in his capacity as UN Secretary-General, Annan wrote the report “We the Peoples” on the role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, and in this report he posed the following question: “if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?” What is the Responsibility to Protect, R2P?

In 2005, governments around the world unanimously agreed to the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which holds that all states have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide and mass atrocities, that the international community should assist them to fulfill this duty, and that the international community should take timely and decisive measures to protect populations from such crimes when their host state fails to do so. R2P is committed to peaceful interventions including assistance, peaceful persuasion, and financial sanctions. The nature of collective action must exhaust the possibilities of “appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means” before ‘forceful means’ can be considered.

The R2P principle entails four pledges.

 First, all states have the “responsibility to protect their own citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Second, the international community must help states with this responsibility, including capacity building and assistance.

Third, the international community has the obligation to pursue peaceful means, such as diplomatic and humanitarian channels, to protect people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and mass atrocities.

Fourth, the UN Security Council will implement its powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter should all peaceful means fail to protect the afflicted population from the mass atrocities

Under R2P, the international community has three main responsibilities: the responsibility to prevent, the responsibility to react, and the responsibility to rebuild.

  1. The responsibility to prevent: to address both the root causes and directs causes of internal conflict and other man-made crises putting populations at risk.
  2. The responsibility to react: to respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures, which may include coercive measures like sanctions and international prosecution, and in extreme cases military intervention.
  3. The responsibility to rebuild: to provide, particularly after a military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, addressing the causes of the harm the intervention was designed to halt or avert.

Military Intervention

 The responsibility to protect implies a duty to react to situations in which there is compelling need for human protection. If preventive measures fail to resolve or contain such a situation, and when the state in question is unable or unwilling to step in, then intervention by other states may be required. Coercive measures then may include political, economic, or judicial steps. In extreme cases — but only extreme cases — they may also include military action. To justify military intervention, six principles have to be satisfied: the “just cause” threshold, four precautionary principles, and the requirement of “right authority.”

(1) The Just Cause Threshold
Military intervention for human protection purposes is an exceptional and extraordinary measure. To be warranted, there must be serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings, or imminently likely to occur, of the following kind:

A. Large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or
B. Large scale ‘ethnic cleansing’, actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.

(2) The Precautionary Principles
A. Right intention: The primary purpose of the intervention, whatever other motives intervening states may have, must be to halt or avert human suffering. Right intention is better assured with multilateral operations, clearly supported by regional opinion and the victims concerned.
B. Last resort :  Military intervention can only be justified when every non-military option for the prevention or peaceful resolution of the crisis has been explored, with reasonable grounds for believing lesser measures would not have succeeded.
C. Proportional means: The scale, duration and intensity of the planned military intervention should be the minimum necessary to secure the defined human protection objective.
D. Reasonable prospects: There must be a reasonable chance of success in halting or averting the suffering which has justified the intervention, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction.

(3) Right Authority
A. There is no better or more appropriate body than the United Nations Security Council to authorize military intervention for human protection purposes. The task is not to find alternatives to the Security Council as a source of authority, but to make the Security Council work better than it has.
B. Security Council authorization should in all cases be sought prior to any military intervention action being carried out. Those calling for an intervention should formally request such authorization, or have the Council raise the matter on its own initiative, or have the Secretary-General raise it under Article 99 of the UN Charter.
C. The Security Council should deal promptly with any request for authority to intervene where there are allegations of large scale loss of human life or ethnic cleansing. It should in this context seek adequate verification of facts or conditions on the ground that might support a military intervention.
D. The Permanent Five members of the Security Council should agree not to apply their veto power, in matters where their vital state interests are not involved, to obstruct the passage of resolutions authorizing military intervention for human protection purposes for which there is otherwise majority support.
E. If the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time, alternative options are:
• Consideration of the matter by the General Assembly in Emergency Special Session under the “Uniting for Peace” procedure; and
• Action within area of jurisdiction by regional or sub-regional organizations under Chapter VIII of the Charter, subject to their seeking subsequent authorization from the Security Council.
F. The Security Council should take into account in all its deliberations that, if it fails to discharge its responsibility to protect in conscience-shocking situations crying out for action, concerned states may not rule out other means to meet the gravity and urgency of that situation – and that the stature and credibility of the United Nations may suffer thereby.


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Donors’ interest in Rohingya crisis waning?

Home > Opinion > NO FRILLS

12:00 AM, September 03, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:48 AM, September 03, 2019

Donors’ interest in Rohingya crisis waning?

 We are not getting anywhere with repatriation because major foreign powers refuse to be moved by the plight of a million people. Photo: AFP 

Syed Mansur Hashim

By all indications, yes, it is waning. Not from ours, but from the perspective of the international donor community that has been providing humanitarian support to the million or so Rohingyas stranded on Bangladeshi soil for two years now. The data speaks for itself.

As pointed out in recent media reports, the humanitarian response to the Rohingyas living in various camps in Cox’s Bazar is on the decline. The implication of this trend is surely not lost upon the government of Bangladesh (GoB).

According to ICSG, a global platform of volunteer agencies working in the camps, as of August 24, 2019, Bangladesh has received only USD 330 million out of USD 920 million (36 percent) required to last the remaining months of 2019. So, where does that leave Bangladesh? If we look at the situation at the corresponding timeline when the crisis began in 2017, it was 73 percent, and in 2018 it was 71 percent. So, over the course of one year, donor commitments have declined significantly.

Last year, the Executive Director of the World Food Progamme (WFP) David Beasley had said that donor agencies were gradually losing their interest in providing food assistance for the displaced Rohingyas who had taken shelter in Bangladesh. In fact, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque had briefed reporters after the meeting between the WFP chief and the prime minister that, “He (Beasley) informed the prime minister that the interest of the donor agencies to feed the Rohingyas is decreasing and the WFP is trying to keep alive this interest among the donor agencies under the UN system. But it’s very difficult for them to keep it up.”

Indeed, going by a discussion organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in association with Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in May, 2018 titled, “Economic Implications of Rohingya Crisis for Bangladesh and National Budget”, we were exposed to the enormous challenges of getting the financial commitments needed to feed this massive refugee population. What was revealed at the discussion was that, in the first phase from September-December, 2017, fund required to provide humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya populace was USD 434 million. Bangladesh provided about one percent (USD 4.37million).

The UN, in its joint response plan, had appealed for nearly a billion US dollars for March-December 2018 to meet emergency needs of both the Rohingya and the host community, with at least 25 percent for the host community which would be negatively affected by the Rohingya influx. At the time of the CPD dialogue, a measly 16 percent of the fund sought had been confirmed and as rightly pointed out by CPD’s Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun back then, “if the crisis lasts long, donors at one stage may lose interest in providing funds for the Rohingyas as several human catastrophes are emerging across the globe.” And here lies the crux of the problem.

We have to wake up to certain realities here. The Myanmar government is not really bothered about repatriation because at the end of the day, the regime faces no real challenge to its actions against the Rohingya populace. The international community remains divided about what the UN response should be against a regime that has perpetrated horrendous crimes against a section of its own populace, driven them out of their homes en masse and forced them to cross international borders.

The Myanmar government has effectively, depopulated the Rakhine state of Rohingyas. While the international community bickers about what should be an “appropriate response”, we do not expect such poor humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya populace residing on Bangladesh soil. GoB cannot be expected to foot the bill of taking care of such a massive population whilst the international community washes its hands off of its moral responsibility by slashing funds that are essential for their housing, health, and education.

We are informed by the WFP that it takes around USD 800,000 to feed over a million refugees a day. This is just one aspect of the financial burden that Bangladesh is increasingly undertaking on a daily basis.

Today, we are not getting anywhere with repatriation because major foreign powers refuse to be moved by the plight of a million people. We are told that their agencies are suffering from “fatigue” because the Rohingya crisis is seemingly an endless one. And if it is, it is no fault of Bangladesh. Rather it is the failure of the permanent members of the UN security council to speak in one voice to send the message that should have been sent in 2017 when the crisis first began unfolding, that ethnic cleansing will not be tolerated and those governments that allow for it to happen must be held accountable. And while that is going on, the financial commitments needed to deal with the humanitarian crisis must be met.

Syed Mansur Hashim is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.


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