Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
As part of her relentless efforts of resolving the long-standing Rohingya refugee issue with Myanmar, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to visit China during the first week of July. Earlier on June 9, 2019, during her press conference, Bangladesh Prime Minister accused Myanmar of being reluctant in repatriating their over a million Rohingya nationals defying their promise and feared that some international aid agencies to tend to keep the crisis alive.
She said, “The problem lies with Myanmar as they don’t want to take back the Rohingyas by any means though Naypyidaw signed an agreement with Bangladesh promising to repatriate them”.
The Bangladesh premier simultaneously feared that some international aid and voluntary agencies too were unwilling to resolve the crisis saying, “They never want the refugees to return their home”.
The Rohingya is an ethnic minority group in Myanmar. Being denied citizenship, hundreds and thousands of Rohingyas have crossed into neighboring Bangladesh, putting unbalanced pressure on its scarce resources. While most studies explain why and how insecurity produces refugees, the opposite process – how refugees produce conflict, dilemma, and insecurity in their host country – is also worthy of study. This article argues that the Rohingya crisis is no longer only a humanitarian calamity but a potential threat to Bangladesh’s internal stability. Bangladesh finds itself in a fix trying to fulfill the national interests of the country, and uphold human security issues of Rohingya.
Asked for comments about a perception that three major countries – China, Japan and India – took Myanmar’s side in the crisis, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, Dhaka separately held talks with these countries when they all acknowledged Rohingyas to be Myanmar nationals and agreed should return there.
How the Rohingya crisis is affecting Bangladesh?
As of February 2018, the United Nations estimates that almost 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled Burma’s violent campaign of ethnic cleansing. Almost universally, they’ve moved into refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
That is straining Bangladesh, which has absorbed a remarkable number of people in just six months, leading to desperately cramped conditions in the camps. Bangladesh is a small, low-lying, under-resourced and densely populated country. And it’s leaders and citizens are growing impatient with the fallout of Burma’s purge of the Rohingya.
In 2017, due to massive violence and genocide committed by the Myanmar army with the help of radical Buddhist populace, hundreds and thousands of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh thus creating a massive refugee crisis. This is the highest number of refugees in the world. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, being sympathetic to the repressed and persecuted Rohingyas has ordered to open country’s borders with neighboring Myanmar. Later, under her leadership, Bangladesh made all-out efforts in getting international support in resolving the crisis. But, until now, there are no such actions initiated by the international community except mere lip-service.
On the Rohingya crisis, unfortunately, China and India are clearly standing behind repressive Myanmar authorities, which has possibly forced Bangladesh government in reaching into a controversial arrangement with Myanmar. Diplomatic analysts are seeing this written arrangement as suicidal, since the terms are ambiguous and impractical as Dhaka was insisting repatriation of the refugees within 24 months. Moreover, Dhaka did not consult any international organization or the Rohingya refugees before penning this arrangement. Many Rohingyas were apprehensive of hastily forced repatriation.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an Islamist militancy group, whose attacks on Burmese security posts triggered the Myanmar army’s indiscriminate “clearance operations,” has already pledged to continue its insurgent campaign against what it calls “Burmese state-sponsored terrorism.” The Bangladeshi security establishment is concerned both that ARSA will try to recruit within camps, and that it will use the camps as a base for cross-border fighting.
There had always been a big question about any connections between ARSA and regional or international terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Joish-e-Mohammed (JeM), etc. On January 23, 2017, Al Qaeda in the subcontinent issued a declaration urging Bangladeshi Muslims to mount an armed rebellion in support of the Rohingyas. A similar statement had also been repeated by other militancy groups.
The United Nations termed it as “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya in Myanmar while the Army over there said that military action is against terrorists and that they are not averse to civilians. Unqualified Rohingya refugees are unacceptable as they are regarded as a burden on the economy. A majority of the Buddhist community in Myanmar considers Rohingyas as illegal Bengali migrants. No citizenship rights were given to the Rohingyas and numerous restrictions were imposed on them. Rohingyas are Sunni Muslims and have fought for an independent country in the past. In 1947 and 1971, they struggled to join East Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively.
What is ARSA?
Rohingya Muslims have also constituted a few terrorist organizations, including the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (SRO), the Harkat-al Yaqin, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) to wage war and establish an independent Muslim state. Unfortunately, a few Muslim terrorist organizations, especially in Pakistan, started assisting these terrorist outfits. Besides Pakistan, few Muslim organizations in the Afro-Arab nations, such as Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, etc., also pumped petrodollars into the coffers of Rohingya terrorist outfits.
ARSA was formed by Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi, a Rohingya man born in Karachi, Pakistan and grew up in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Jununi, in a video posted online, stated, “Our primary objective under ARSA is to liberate out people from dehumanizing operation perpetrated by all successive Burmese regimes”. Although the groups claim themselves as ‘ethnic-nationalist’ and denied allegations of being Islamists, it follows many traditional Islamic practices such as having recruits swear an oath to the Quran, referring to the leader as emir and asking for fatwas [sermons] from foreign Muslim clerics.
The Islamic State (ISIS), which has put a massive hate material on the Internet, was able to recruit a few Rohingya Muslims who went to Syria and Iraq to fight in conjunction with the IS. There are also reports that the IS and the Lashkar-e-Taiba are trying to recruit Rohingyas staying in Jammu while the Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent has also supported the Rohingyas.
AqaMul members, the terrorist outfit of Rohingya Muslims, has links with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan, Joish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba. There are also reports that the Rohingyas, settled in Jammu illegally.
A large number of NGOs, working with the Rohingyas, especially funded by Iran and Turkey, have Islamic extremist leanings and inculcate radicalism in them.
The ultimate consequence:
Clearly, Myanmar is playing an extreme nasty game centering the Rohingya refugee issue, while the world seems to be almost silently witnessing such notoriety. What no one possibly is realizing is – further delay in resolving the crisis may generate huge frustration within those over one million refugees and it would possibly push them towards becoming exposed to militancy groups such as ISIS in particular. And in that case, the ultimate result would be absolutely catastrophic. If the Rohingyas go into the grips of ISIS or other militancy groups – Myanmar, China and India will be the most affected countries and such rage may even cross beyond South Asia and get expanded up to the West. People need to remember, re-emergence of ISIS within the Rohingyas would actually be a much biggest challenge than ISIS in Iraq or Syria.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib