Protracted refugee crisis in South and Southeast Asia


APPROXIMATELY one million Rohingya refugees reside in Bangladesh, the majority of whom crossed the border after the start of a harsh military campaign in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in August 2017.

Bangladesh has generously offered refuge to this large population while trying to manage the displacement crisis as a short-term issue, emphasizing the importance of repatriation and avoiding multi-year planning. This strategy did not work.

The repatriation process has slowed, crime and violence in and around Rohingya camps in southern Bangladesh appear to be on the rise, and Dhaka has responded more vehemently.

After nearly a million Rohingya fled Myanmar for Bangladesh, his government moved quickly to support them in the Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf areas.

The Bangladeshi government then decided to decongest these camps by moving some of the Rohingyas to other areas to ease the pressure on the locals in terms of livelihoods, environmental hazard, security threat, etc.

In order to offer some of these Rohingyas, who volunteered to settle in Bhashan Char, a dignified and lasting temporary home, the Bangladesh Navy then built ultra-modern equipment and accommodation there.

Global attention is far from the Rohingya crisis at a time when the whole world is concerned about the management of the Ukrainian crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and other strategic issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, new dimensions revolving around the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, etc.

Since its creation, the United Nations has actively contributed to the establishment of peace in many regions of the world.

For example, the international community saw how the UN could bring peace to places like Rwanda, Haiti and many other parts of the world where ethnic and religious conflict stifled the aspirations of ordinary people.

The people of Bangladesh as well as the unfortunate Rohingya community are now looking to the UN for a sense of relief and a ray of hope.

Bangladesh has suffered greatly from the mass exodus of people who entered the country as a result of the inhuman torture and atrocities committed by the Myanmar junta, although it was not a factor in the conflict in that country.

The international community and the UN must do more to deal with this disaster if more than a million innocent Rohingya are to realize their dream of living in dignity and peace.

Can the international community afford to see such injustice in the 21st century?

Since the late 1970s, Myanmar’s discriminatory policies have driven hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas to flee their homes in the predominantly Buddhist country.

The majority of them entered Bangladesh overland, while others traveled by sea to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

A Rohingya flight began in 2017 following increased violence, which included reports of rape, murder and arson.

Myanmar’s security forces have been accused of carrying out ethnic cleansing during this period.

The international community is exerting increasing pressure on Myanmar’s political authorities to stop the bloodshed, even as these forces claim to be engaged in a campaign to restore stability in the western region of the country.

Since the country’s declaration of independence in 1948, successive administrations of Burma, renamed Myanmar in 1989, have denied historical claims of the Rohingya people and refused to recognize the minority as one of the country’s 135 recognized ethnic groups.

Even though many Rohingya can trace their ancestry back centuries to Myanmar, they are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The term ‘Rohingya’, an expression of self-identification which first appeared in the 1950s and which researchers say gives people a collective political identity, is recognized neither by the central government nor by Rakhine, the dominant Buddhist ethnic group in Rakhine.

The most common idea, despite disagreements over the etymology of the name, is that Rohang comes from the word Arakan in the Rohingya dialect, where ga or gya means “of”.

Chris Lewa, the director of Project Arakan, a Thailand-based advocacy organization, says that by claiming to be Rohingya, the ethnic Muslim community is claiming its ties to a territory that was originally ruled by the Arakan Kingdom.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the violence “ethnic cleansing” and the humanitarian situation “catastrophic”.

A genocide may have taken place, according to rights organizations and other UN officials.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, told a special meeting of the UN Security Council that the Myanmar government had waged a “brutal and continuous campaign to purge the nation of an ethnic minority “, and urged nations to stop supplying the military with weapons.

Further pressure on the Myanmar government has been rejected by other members of the Security Council such as Russia and China.

In Rakhine State, sectarian strife is nothing new. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee their homes due to security measures over the past five years, including in 2012 and 2016.

As Rohingya migration to Bangladesh has increased, countries like the United States, Canada, Norway and South Korea have increased their humanitarian aid.

In early 2018, a group of British doctors launched an emergency response to help stop the spread of the disease in the camps.

For 2018, the UN had requested US$951 million (RM4.19 billion) in funding for emergency assistance.

Former US Vice President Mike Pence increased the pressure on Myanmar’s former State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi at the November 2018 ASEAN meeting by claiming that “violence and persecution” of Rohingya by Myanmar were to blame.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Arakan Project and Fortify Rights are just some of the rights organizations that continue to call for international pressure on the Myanmar government to repatriate Rohingya from Bangladesh.

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