Bangladesh has more opportunities now to intensify the Rohingya repatriation process with Myanmar as the military junta in the country has become "weak" amid civil unrest, international relations experts told a webinar on Tuesday.
"More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar security forces with thousands of others arrested, according to the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests. It indicates that the military junta are currently in a weak position," Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, International Relations department professor at Dhaka University, told the webinar titled "The Rohingya Exodus in Bangladesh: Regional and Global Security Implications".
"Japan, China, India and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are now taking more business benefits by capitalising on the weak positions of the military junta. So, it's the best time for Bangladesh also to speed up the negotiation with Myanmar about Rohingya repatriation," he added in the event jointly organised by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Bangabandhu Centre for Bangladesh Studies (BCBS) Canada.
He expressed hope about the repatriation, adding that "engaging civil societies of Japan, India, European Union on the issue will increase pressure on their respective governments" which will bring proactive roles of those countries.
Myanmar's junta chief was excluded from the recent ASEAN summit, a rare rebuke as concerns rise over the military government's commitment to defusing a bloody crisis.
At yesterday's event, experts observed that while Myanmar itself is going through a civil war-like situation since the military coup in February this year, the international community needs to start a peace-building process for Myanmar.
Speakers said Myanmar is plunging into more turmoil with many of the ethnic rebel groups joining the National Unity Government's forces to resist Myanmar military, while nearly a million Rohingyas are getting more frustrated as there has been no repatriation since the latest exodus in 2017.
Human trafficking, drug smuggling and religious extremism could go from bad to worse in the refugee camps, they fear.
Dr Kawser Ahmed, adjunct professor, University of Winnipeg and executive director, BCBS, mentioned that the recent military takeover in Myanmar added a new dimension to the Rohingya crisis.
"We need strong allies to put pressure on Myanmar so that they start the repatriation process very soon."
He said that Canada has a positive role on the issue, but Bangladesh has to work more on utilising the position of Canada in a wide range of international arenas.
However, describing repatriation is a complicated issue, Brigadier General M Sakhawat Hossain, a security analyst, said, adding that until a civilian government takes power in Myanmar, repatriation would not be so easy. So, we may have to wait for a long time, he said.
Abul Hasan Chowdhury, former state minister for foreign affairs,focused on Bangladesh's strong dealings with regional organisations like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and ASEAN to speed up the repatriation process.
He thinks that the door of dialogue with Myanmar has to be always kept open as a BIMSTEC member country.
Dr Khalil Rahman, high commissioner of Bangladesh in Canada, said international communities are helping Bangladesh only to integrate Rohingyas but not in the repatriation process.
Among others, Major General Md Emdad Ul Bari, director general of BIISS, delivered the opening remarks.
On 25 August 2017, the world witnessed a massive humanitarian crisis unfold in Rakhine State, Myanmar.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas fled from Rakhine as they came under violent attack and villages were razed.
This triggered an unprecedented exodus across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh. There are now 860,000 Rohingya living in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, over half of whom are children.