Imagine yourself in a world, where Myanmar Military forces officials are enjoying scrumptious Burmese delicacies, and just on the very opposite corner of the street, an impoverished Rohingya child whose parents were mercilessly murdered by the Myanmar Army is struggling to find a handful of rice for his only meal of the day. What would such a world look like? This rhetoric is a strong representation of Rakhine since Myanmar's advent as a military-run state in the 1960s. Politics in Myanmar has been extensively influenced by military presence in its own ecosystem and has driven an immense level of discrimination towards the Rohingya community and near-complete marginalisation in resource allocations and growth.
The Rohingya is an ethnic minority group in Myanmar that has, due to persecution by the Tatmadaw, crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh over decades, laying uneven pressure on the scarce resources of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is now hosting more than one million Rohingya refugees, highlighting the serious concern of human security. The Myanmar government has been very reluctant to take back their nationals, the Rohingya, despite the Bangladesh government's robust diplomatic endeavours regarding repatriation. On the other hand, there is no valid record of the Myanmar Army where they looked after the well-being of their Rohingya population. The fall of democratic governance in Myanmar will deteriorate the situation in Rakhine, and prolong the process of repatriating the Rohingyas back to Myanmar.
It cannot be denied that the Rohingya crisis is simply not a homegrown or inward matter of Myanmar; instead, it is currently perhaps one of the most pivotal South-Asian emergencies. The reality suggests that the presence of about a million Rohingyas in limited space has become risky. It left the local livelihood, environment and socio-economic situation under threat. There were also security challenges in crowded camps.
One of the most worrying signs from the recent events in Myanmar is that a certain level of increasing paranoia among the general Burmese people can be vividly observed, accelerated by the revanchist thirst for power from Myanmar military. This is putting a pulse on the Myanmar political '"elites' power and is pushing the government in Myanmar to decouple itself from the entanglement of Western democracy and political governance. The coup is growing a sense of diminishing grip over Myanmar's pandemic response and may cause a surge in the series of economic crises Myanmar is going through. Due to the Rohingya humanitarian issue and recent financial crises, Aung Sung and her administration emerged to be more, and not less, of a threat in a political ecosystem in the Asia-Pacific region, in which the political spectrum of Myanmar is somewhat embedded with anti-foreign sentiments.
What went down with the collapse of democracy in Myanmar is the culmination of Aung Sung Suu Kyi's personal characteristics and public presence. And due to the Suu Kyi's administration's actions in Rakhine regarding systematic oppression on the Rohingya community since 2010, the international community had already drawn pessimistic conclusions about it. . However, the army is equally, if not more, responsible for the catastrophe in Rakhine as it is indeed a fact that the Suu Kyi's government's hands have largely been tied ever since the country's tentative democratisation in the early 2010s. Of course, concessions made by particular politicians and the military regime's ability to agitate and convince the masses in support of authoritarian retrenchment and the military regime's ability to agitate and convince the masses in support of authoritarian retrenchment are also to be blamed.
In Bangladesh's temporary refugee settlements, the Rohingyas are being provided with basic provisions of their life like food and shelter. Besides, healthcare has been the utmost priority at the moment and also for the rest of the period until the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar. Rohingya refugees are seriously at the risk of human trafficking. Health security and food security are the evolving challenges in the makeshifts where refugees are living. There is the likelihood of increasing occurrences of such incidences and aggravating the local social and cultural harmony among the local Bengali citizens and the Rohingya refugees.
As Myanmar is currently going through a phase of political turmoil and democratic vacuum, Bangladesh's decision to fortify the border is highly appreciable. We should increase our strength and surveillance on the border. A strict and clear stance from the government of Bangladesh would make it much more likely that the US and other European countries would urgently try to find solutions to end the democratic vacuum in Myanmar. At this point in time, Bangladesh should take a hard, dynamic, and organised stance to stop the Rohingyas' influx. In this way, we will move towards the goal of restoring the rights of the Rohingyas. The repatriation process has been supported by theUnited Nations and is now in the risk of being stalled for at least a year. Bangladesh has made every effort professionally to harness regional and global power to end the amicable solution of this emerging crisis despite China and India's position on the side of Myanmar on the Rohingya issue. We have noticed both countries are having a substantial strategic and economic interest in Myanmar. Even Russia seems compassionate to Myanmar on this issue.
The Bangladesh government has been experienced over the months while unveiling their diplomatic efforts in persuading Myanmar to repatriate the refugees. However, the reality suggests that the Bangladesh government may not succeed in sending all of them back even in a single go with the utmost diplomatic niche. Therefore, we may think of some long-term solutions to deal with this additional population in Bangladesh.
There is a direct correlation between the price of rice and the displacement of Rohingyas. The cultivation of rice is yielded in one of the highest capacities in Rakhine. The human rights violations conducted by the Tatmadaw increased substantially during the good harvest season when rice prices are satisfactory, which makes the pattern of human rights violations in Rakhine against the Rohingyas very different from what the Myanmar Army did against other minorities in other parts of their country. This shows that the human rights violations against the Rohingyas were somewhat economically motivated.
As Bangladesh and India have continued to consolidate their political, economic, trade and cultural relations and have built a comprehensive institutional framework to promote bilateral cooperation over the decades, India must come forward to join hands with the Bangladesh government for a swift repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
US President Joe Biden has expressed grave concerns regarding the situation in Myanmar, and placement of sanctions on Myanmar after the recent military takeover may somewhat help democracy to return back to that country. Furthermore, President Biden viewed the coup 'd'etat as a "direct assault on the country's transition to democracy". Experts in the field of International Relations opined that the US had removed sanctions on Myanmar over the past decade based on progress and substantial development towards democratic governance. Thus, the reverse process of going back to a military-run regime had put a halt for an indefinite amount of time to the progress of democracy which necessitates a thorough review of US sanction on Myanmar which may be followed by appropriate action.
The United Nations, which is known to be very emphatic for meaningful repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh must coordinate and promptly communicate with donors and other relevant stakeholders to come forward to solve this problem permanently by putting pressure on the Myanmar government to take back its citizens by creating a safe and secured environment. We request countries in this region and beyond to show solidarity with Bangladesh and start creating conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees. The international community led by the United Nations must stand in solidarity with the government of Bangladesh at this time, and for all states with influence to take steps in the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar alongside pressurising the military government for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar.
Dr Mohammad Tarikul Islam is an Associate Professor of the Department of Government and Politics at Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Md Nazmus Sakib Khan is working as a Research Assistant at the Institution for Need-Led Innovation at Oxford and is one of the founding members of the international project, 'Shapers and the Solvers', launched by Global
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