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Bangladesh involvement needed to solve Arakan crisis

By Mohamed Ibrahim 
31 March 2014

As the persecution of Rohingya Muslims gets worse in the remote Western corner of Myanmar, it will soon become impossible for the international community, especially neighbouring countries to ignore the crisis. Only Bangladesh however shares a border with the restive Rakhine (Arakan) province and the country has been the first point of escape for Muslim refugees fleeing from the sectarian violence since independence. But Bangladesh has historically been unwilling to get involved in the affairs of Myanmar. As the situation in Arakan becomes worse than any time in history and the government and Rakhine groups target the complete extermination of Rohingyas and possibly other Muslim communities of the Arakan, Bangladesh will be forced to play a more prominent role.

The presence of nearly half a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have long been a sore point for the Bangladesh government and civil society. Bangladesh says that the presence of foreigners in their already overcrowded country is a strain on their resources. But since the sectarian conflicts and the ever worsening persecution of Rohingyas, Bangladeshis are increasingly aware that Rohingyas don’t come to Bangladesh for economic opportunities, but to escape murder, rape, torture, and inhumane treatment. There is more sympathy for the Rohingya Muslims now that the brutal pogrom implemented by the government and anti Muslim Rakhine groups become clearer.

In early March, a high level delegation led by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Myanmar. During the visit, the Bangladesh PM told President Thein Sein that Bangladesh seeks an amicable solution on the issue. Government officials assured their Bangladeshi counterparts that there will in fact be a solution to the Rohingya crisis.

Those familiar with the government know very well that they not interested in any amicable solution. The assurances given to the Bangladesh delegation is just another attempt to buy time. Myanmar is determined to implement the final solution i.e. exterminate all Rohingyas and expel them to Bangladesh. Rakhine groups and other anti- Muslim elements who enjoy wide support in Myanmar are campaigning that all Rohingyas be thrown out, not the other way round as Bangladesh wants. The government has always maintained that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Such a scenario requires a more aggressive approach from the government of Bangladesh and their people. There is no ultimate solution to the Rohingya crisis without the involvement of Bangladesh. Once Bangladesh becomes involved, the rest of the Muslim world will also follow. For the beleaguered Rohingya community on the edge of extermination, that unfortunately seems to be the only option left after being brutally rejected by most of Myanmar.