Will China’s strategic embrace of Myanmar spell more trouble for Rohingyas?

The strategic gameplan of support to the Rohingya militancy is clearly visible. One, for China, making them into militants can be used to destabilize many countries, including India in South Asia, thus weakening its economic competitors, writes Swadesh Roy for South Asia Monitor

Swadesh Roy Jan 25, 2020
China’s strategic

Author and journalist Gajalakshmi Paramasivam headlined one of her articles on Sri Lanka as ‘Tamils out and China in’. Paramasivam regularly writes about the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils in newspapers, portals and blogs. Among others who have worked on Sri Lanka’s Tamil genocide is writer and journalist Frances Harrison, whose stupendous work 'Still Death Counting', recounts details of that genocide and how brutally human beings are killed and become refugees for economic or business interests.
 
After Chinese President Xi Jinping's January 5 visit to Myanmar, MoUs have been signed between China and Myanmar for construction of the Kyaukpyu Deep Sea Port in the Bay of Bengal, on the outskirts of Arakan state and for the construction of a Kyaukpyu Economic Zone. China has long been talking about the New Silk Route or the Twenty-first Century Silk Route. They are also talking about the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
 
There are various opinions about the implementation of this route in China as well. What is the necessity of this Silk Route? The Sri Lankan and Myanmar governments, which have killed people and made people refugees in both countries for the Hambantota and Kyaukpyu Deep Sea Ports and Kyaukpyu Economic Zone, have not only committed gross human rights violations but also compromised their economies.
 
There are a lot of aspects that emerge from information about China's investment in the Kyaukpyu economic zone and the direction of the future trade route. This deep seaport is the root cause of the Rohingya upheaval. As this seaport will reduce the distance for movement of goods from Indian ports to China by 5,000 km, it will increase China's dominance in the Bay of Bengal. China is building a huge oil reservoir near the seaport from where they will take oil to their country through pipelines.
 
According to the experience of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, Myanmar will also be forced to lease the entire area to China once it becomes part of the port, oil reserve and economic zone. Myanmar will never be able to return the invested money to China through profits from this port. Following this policy of ‘build up infrastructure and occupy it’, China has been successful earlier in areas like Sri Lanka, Laos and countries in Africa. They will be successful in Myanmar too. Another aspect of this Chinese economic expansion is that Chinese citizens gradually settle in wherever they invest. As a result, their citizens stand to benefit from the employment opportunities at these places. Chinese citizens will also come to Arakan in future. The Rohingyas have been ousted by Myanmar's army to create space for the Chinese.
 
While many may disagree, China's trusted friend Pakistan has given Myanmar's army an excuse for doing so. The rationale for Myanmar's military attacks on the Rohingyas was manufactured by Pakistani military intelligence agency ISI, a trusted friend of China. The ISI formed and supported an extremist militant group, called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), among the Rohingyas of Arakan and, with militant groups, they launched some attacks on the police. Following that, Myanmar's army began the indiscriminate rape and genocide of the Rohingyas. If Bangladesh's leader, Sheikh Hasina, had not immediately opened the border, at least one million Rohingyas would have been massacred.
 
The Middle East has been in turmoil for the past few decades. That unrest has been created by Western powers and their media who look for stereotypes. As a result of this turmoil, millions of Libyans, Lebanese, Syrians and Iraqi people are being called "Muslim refugees" in the West, not naming them by their nations, such as Iraqi or Syrian refugees. That is what happened to the Rohingyas all over the world, including Bangladesh. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West labelled the Muslim refugees as extremists and terrorists in disguise. So whenever a group of refugees were called "Muslim refugees", ordinary people assumed that they were not worthy of any real sympathy because they were "terrorists".
 
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have similarly been identified as "Muslim refugees" and been pushed into the same slot. Before they came to Bangladesh, Pakistan got them labelled as ARSA extremists. Looking around the Rohingya camps it is apparent now that they are being turned into different types of militants through various groups. And this is also helping China's trusted friend, the Pakistani intelligence service ISI.
 
Thus, the strategic gameplan of support to the Rohingya militancy is clearly visible. One, for China, making them into militants can be used to destabilize many countries, including India in South Asia, thus weakening its economic competitors. Two, if Rohingyas are identified as terrorists, no one can pressurize Myanmar to accept their return to the Arakan. Myanmar will tell the world that they are, in fact,  militants and not worthy of sympath. And with the Chinese investment in Arakan, the Chinese will be able to enter and occupy that space. That is why Paramasivam’s evocative title has to be replicated, to express the truth; in fact, 'Rohingyas out and China in'.
 
(The writer is a senior journalist in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He can be reached at swadeshroy@gmail.com)

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