Should Rohingyas go back to Myanmar ?

Erina Haque
Contd from previous issue
Both Bangladesh and Myanmar had worked it out before since 1978 with international support. The Government of Bangladesh and most of the people of Bangladesh sympathize with the Rohingya on humanitarian grounds. But it is difficult for us to shelter this huge population for very long. Our country is small and our population is huge. Our economic capacity is not so good that we can provide food, shelter and treatment to the Rohingyas day after day. It is worth mentioning that the aid for the Rohingyas is declining day by day. International community is bust with the Ukraine crisis now. The Rohingya humanitarian crisis has lost its urgency to international community because of the Ukraine war but did not lose sight of it. Reports say only 43 percent of the required amount of USD 881 million under the Joint Response Plan 2022 has been funded in 2022. In 2021, the disbursed amount was 72 percent of the required USD 943 million.
Drug smuggling is carried out in 800 arenas in Rohingya camps and 123 people have been killed in Rohingya camps in five years of internecine clashes. Arms trade, murder, rape and extortion have become evident in the Rohingya camps. Internal chaos is on the rise. There are also incidents of fleeing from Ukhia, Teknaf and Bhasanchar where the Rohingya have taken refuge. Some of them are also trying to cross the sea to other countries. There are incidents of Rohingya boat capsizing while crossing the sea. They are also trying to enter different districts of the country. They have also been arrested from some districts. The incident of Rohingyas taking refuge in Bangladesh was an expression of humanitarian perspective. It is now the responsibility of the interna- tional community to repatriate them.
Due to the situation of the Rohingyas, the pressure is not only on our economy, but also various social and environmental problems. Belatedly, attention needs to be paid to building a relationship of trust with Myanmar. Whatever Government is in Myanmar now, Bangladesh should work to build a relationship of trust with Myanmar’s society, the Government of Myanmar, and the Opposition. So that they don’t think that we incite Rohingyas, give them shelter, we send them to fight against Myanmar etc. so that the idea is not in Myanmar. Bangladesh has already started trading with them to build Myanmar’s confidence, sending representa- tives on their National day, meeting between the security forces of the two countries, Bangladesh sending relief to Myanmar’s disaster but these are not enough initiatives.
Now that Bangladesh is in a deep crisis over the Rohingya issue, more effort is needed than usual to build a relationship of trust. For example, the top-level meeting of the two countries is not held for more than 20 years. After the independence of Bangladesh till 2000 there were 16 summit level visits with Myanmar. That means there is no dialogue at the top level of the two countries in this deep crisis. Now it is suddenly not possible. For that, the dialogue between the two countries should be increased at the foreign minister level. Apart from the Rohingya, there are many other issues between the two countries, which need to be further discussed at this time. If necessary, they should make concessions in other matters and build a relationship of trust to realize their own interests in the Rohingya issue.
Moreover, the ‘conducive environment’ debate is also a politically biased one. As the Junta is repatriating, it is guaranteeing their safety. The other stakeholders of Rakhine and Myanmar, the Arakan Army (AA) and the National Unity Government (NUG) have already recognized the Rohingya. Furthermore, as China is backing the deal, it also has the responsibility to provide an external guarantee for Rohingya’s safety upon repatriation. Therefore, it may not be unsafe to explore the possibilities of repatriation with the Junta. It seems the NGOs are driven by their own compulsion of lengthening ‘projects’ and squeeze their donors displaying the plight of the refugee community.
In a nutshell, the repatriation plan will reduce Bangladesh’s burden at least to some extent. The pilot project will also increase Bangladesh-Myanmar engagement. The World community should not go against it; instead, they should come forward and engage effectively to ensure the rapid repatriation of the rest of the refugees. The NGOs and Advocacy networks should also scale up their activity rather than reacting compulsively.
For more than two years now, Junta is administering the state of Myanmar. The international community and the great powers did little to pressurize the Junta to repatriate the Rohingya. Prior to Junta, the international community also failed to convince the democratic government to repatriate the Rohingya and bring the perpetrators to justice.
At this moment, Junta is formally in power, even though it faces a serious legitimacy crisis and resistance at home. But it is the only formal authority in Myanmar. Bangladesh has tried bilaterally, trilaterally, and multilaterally for the past six years for a viable solution. It has left no stone unturned, yet found nothing. Now as China is brokering the deal with approval from the UN, Bangladesh eagerly wants to explore the initiative as something is better than nothing. Moreover, Bangladesh cannot remain indifferent to the Junta question. Owing to bilateral political, economic, connectivity, and economic issues, Bangladesh has to engage with the authority of Myan-mar- that is Junta currently.
While Bangladesh-the guardian of the Rohingya on the global stage is trying heart and soul to repatriate the Rohingya to their birthplace, the NGOs are not doing enough.  
(To be contd)