The Only Sustainable Solution to the Rohingya crisis
By Aman Ullah
Since August 25, more than 613,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh fleeing persecution in Myanmar, making Bangladesh the fourth largest host country for refugees. For a country with such a large population of its own, this has been a major burden, one, which the international community is yet to fully realize, or at least that is how it seems.
It is estimated by a leading think tank that Bangladesh would need Tk 7,126 crore to provide food, shelter and other support to the Rohingyas until June next year. And that is because humanitarian support provided by international organizations may not continue for long, which means that Bangladesh will have to bear the majority of the expense, and should be wary of security risks, terrorism, spread of diseases, trafficking of women and children and illegal drug trade in the south-eastern region.
The Bangladesh government has been globally lauded—and rightfully so—for welcoming with open arms, once again, the persecuted Rohingya people with whom the country has a checkered history. The Rohingyas came to Bangladesh in droves in 1978, 1992, and the 2010s. But at this juncture, many are wondering just how the latest influx of Rohingyas—the highest yet, numbering over 600,000—is going to pan out in the longer term.
Refugee crises are ridden with dilemmas. It is a dilemma for the oppressed to leave or stay; a dilemma for governments to condemn or remain silent; a dilemma for countries to refuse or let refugees in. And once they’ve done their part to take in a certain “quota”, there’s yet again a dilemma about doing “too much” for fear that this would act as a pull factor. This has been the case with the Rohingya refugees who have come to Bangladesh in previous exoduses and have had to face restrictions such as limited access to education and no permission to work despite being here for decades.
The dilemma we are facing perhaps is a result of any government having to tow the difficult line between humanitarianism and real politic. Taking ceaselessly on the burden of more and more refugees turn into an opportunistic tool for the sending country (in this case Myanmar) to achieve its internal objectives. The Myanmar Government is taking cent percent advantage of Bangladesh’s compassion to rid the entirely of the Rohingya people from the soil of Arakan.
Despite persecuting the Rohingyas for months, the Myanmar government still shows no remorse or willingness to stop using violence, while paying lip service to calls for peace. The international community has, meanwhile, done little more than issue statements which have not helped to stop the hostile actions of the Myanmar government towards the Rohingyas and its neighbour, Bangladesh. The China and Russia too have opposed any strong international condemnation of the Myanmar government’s belligerent actions.
Refugee management is not one-man show business and on the other hand Bangladesh—which is no stranger to hosting refugees—has not been able to do a better job of refugee management, particularly with regard to the Rohingya. A major reason behind Bangladesh’s inability to better manage the crisis is the utter failure of the international community to pressurize the Myanmar government into bringing an end to the repression of the minority in the first place, so that Rohingya refugees stranded in Bangladesh would feel confident enough to go back.
Instead of giving pressure to the Government of Myanmar, the United States government wants to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Rohingya crisis and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of US Thomas A Shannon recently clarified at Dhaka that punishment is not the answer to resolve the crisis. Replying to a query on possible tougher measures against Myanmar such as imposing sanctions, Mr. Shannon said that the purpose of the US was to solve the problem, not to punish. The US could take one hundred steps to solve the problem and there would still be no end in sight of the Rohingya crisis. The main problems in negotiating with the Myanmar government are how to press for a solution which would not be detrimental to the Rohingyas.
In a nation which is so deeply prejudiced to Muslims that even taxi drivers throw out passengers if they are thought to be from a Muslim country — as documented by an Australian journalist, how can a solution be found which ensures that Rohingyas are not treated badly?
Myanmar has committed genocide and expelled the Rohingyas most savagely for not taking them back through sweet discussions. In fact the terrible hatred against Rohingyas is state sponsored one.
Moreover the government is try to retain the Arakan under the military control by making all the Rohingyas stateless and all the Rakhines homeless, land less and effortless for total sold out of the whole Arakan to the Chinese for the money and security.
The simple demand to take back the Rohingyas is no solution without ensuring their safety. Myanmar may be found too eager to take them back to annihilate them.
The Rohingya crisis has to be solved by international diplomacy. Bangladesh cannot solve the problem alone through peaceful discussion. To think otherwise is to ignore the need of urgent end to the miseries of Rohingya refugees.
Myanmar defied international law by making Rohingyas stateless and committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims. The problem has been complicated by Myanmar. No civilized country can commit the brutalities done against the Rohingyas in their own country. Rohingyas belonged to their own state, namely Rakhine State. The country was occupied by Burma previously.
Many countries have been divided as a solution when those countries could not learn to live together. So why the international community through the United Nations should not put hard pressure that as the solution the Rakhine State to be freed from Myanmar.
Arakan was neither purely a Burmese nor an Indian Territory until 18th century. Chiefly for its location, it had not only remained independent for the most part of history but also endeavored to expend its territory in the surrounding tracts whenever opportunity came. Being separated from the rest of Burma by a long and high impassible hill range of Arakan Yoma, the peoples of Arakan neither drank from the same water with Burmans nor dependant on them for trade and commerce. Neither of a single river flows from Arakan to Burma nor Burma to Arakan.
Across the last two thousand years, there has been great deal of local vibrancy as well as movement of different ethnic peoples through the region. For the last millennium or so, Muslims (Rohingyas) and Buddhists (Rakhines) have historically lived on both side of Naaf River, which marks the modern border with Bangladesh and Burma. In addition to Muslims (Rohingyas) and Buddhists (Rakhines) majority groups, a number of other minority peoples also come to live in Arakan, including Chin, Kaman, Thet, Dinnet, Mramagri, Mro and Khami etc.
The Muslims (Rohingyas) and Buddhists (Rakhines) had been peacefully coexisting in Arakan over the centuries. Unfortunately, the relation between those two sister communities began to grow bitter at instigation of the third parties, during the long colonial rule of more than two centuries. The anti-Muslim pogrom of 1942—in which about 100,000 Rohingya were massacred, 50,000 of them were driven across the border to the east Bengal some parts of Muslim settlements were devastated—have caused rapid deterioration in their relation.
The history of Independent Kingdom of Arakan came to an end by the invasion and occupation of Burmese king, Bodawpaya, in 1784. After 40 years of Burmese rule the British colonialist annexed Arakan to a British India in the first Anglo-Burma war of 1824 and it remained under British administration till Burmese independence on January 4, 1948.
The British colonial power transferred the sovereignty of Arakan on January 4, 1948, into the newly formed ‘Union of Burma’ without the wish of the peoples of Arakan. The Britishers violated this principle of separate juridical status of colonial territories, when they transferred their legal ‘sovereignty’ over Arakan to the Burma Union.
There can be no compromise between the concept of ‘Union of Burma’ and the principle of ‘decolonization’, because the one goes directly against the other. Decolonization requires ‘liquidation of all colonial empire’ with specific steps and definitive procedures, but Union of Burma exists on the principle of the total preservation of the territorial integrity of the previous colonial empire; an empire is not liquidated if its integrity is preserved. ‘Union of Burma’ is still an un-liquidated and un-decolonized colonial empire with Burma replacing Britishers as the colonial masters. Union Burma is thus admittedly a state based solely on British colonialism—without decolonization. Hence, Arakan became un-decolonized and Non-Self-Governing Territories (NSGT).
It is irony of the fate that the portion of time preceding Burmese independence was a very dark period for the people of Arakan. The people of Arakan hardly believe that the Burmans govern them; but they strongly feel that they are colonized. After being integrated into Burma the people of Arakan have been a part of unitary state of the Union of Burma during which time they have been subjected to brutal and inhuman treatment such as; human rights abuses, killings, rapes, ignorance, poverty and social injustice and have been subjected to virtual ethnic and cultural genocide.
In a vast political reshaping of the world, more than 80 former colonies comprising some 750 million people have gained independence since the creation of the United Nations. At present, 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories (NSGTs) across the globe remain to be decolonized, home to nearly 2 million people. Thus, the process of decolonization is not complete. Finishing the job will require a continuing dialogue among the administering Powers, the Special Committee on Decolonization, and the peoples of the territories, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions on decolonization.
In 1990, the General Assembly proclaimed the first International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, including a specific plan of action. The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples, the United Nations entity exclusively devoted to the issue of decolonization, was established in 1961 by the General Assembly with the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the Declaration (General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960).
Under the General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, it is declared that: –
• The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.
• All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
• Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.
• All armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.
• Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.
• Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
• All States shall observe faithfully and strictly the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the present Declaration on the basis of equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of all States, and respect for the sovereign rights of all peoples and their territorial integrity.
The Special Committee annually reviews the list of Territories to which the Declaration is applicable and makes recommendations as to its implementation. It also hears statements from NSGTs representatives, dispatches visiting missions, and organizes seminars on the political, social and economic situation in the Territories. Further, the Special Committee annually makes recommendations concerning the dissemination of information to mobilize public opinion in support of the decolonization process, and observes the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Thus, the sustainable solution to Rohingya crisis can only be found easily and peacefully recognizing the Rakhine State as belonging to Rohingyas. The international community should help to the peoples of Arakan to make their country a decolonized and independent state where all the peoples of Arakan have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
The Arakan problem can be easily solved to the satisfaction of all the stake holders if the Rakhine Buddhist is simply follow the golden rule of “Live and let Live”. This will definitely put an end to all the mutual ill-feeling and mistrusts; and there lies mutual happiness for all.