Much preaching, but little support for Bangladesh in the Rohingya crisis

Little help has been extended to Bangladesh to resolve the Rohingya problem. Even in international forums like the UN, no one voted for Bangladesh when it brought a resolution condemning human rights violations in Myanmar, particularly against Rohingya Muslims, writes Swadesh Roy for South Asia Monitor

Swadesh Roy Dec 12, 2020
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On December 4, 2020, BBC reported, “Rohingya relocated to a remote island against their will, rights group say.” In the report, BBC quoted Human Rights Watch as saying that it had interviewed 12 families whose names were on transport lists but who had not volunteered to go. The United Nations said it had been given "limited information" about the relocations to Bhasan Char and was not involved. But on the other hand, one of the Rohingya refugees, living in Cox’s Bazar, who was identified as Kamal, said that his family after going to Bhasan Char was “happy.” He said his family had informed him over the phone that the houses and roads in Bhasan Char were good. Kamal said he himself would be relocating to Bhasan Char to join his family.

Kamal’s family is happy in Bhasan Char, and yet international organisations seem to be unhappy at the relocation.  There are over 1.1 million Rohingyas who live in Bangladesh. But the international community has failed to provide a viable resolution to the crisis.  The biggest beneficiaries are the international organizations' officials and employees, who are living in Bangladesh, to provide financial and other aid to the Rohingyas staying in crowded camps. 

Most of the employees of international organizations stay in five-star hotels. Only a few live in rented houses, and even then these are high-end apartments. At 10 am they go to the Kutupalong refugee camp and come back by 3.30 pm. The rest of the day is spent on the beaches of Cox’s Bazar as they lead luxurious lifestyles. Humanitarian work is supposed to be rough and tough; but for doing this 'tough' work, they take US $ 450 a day, along with a two-week vacation each alternate week.

These international organization employees get many financial benefits and, in fact, have come under government
scrutiny for their alleged involvement in criminal activities. 

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen has asserted to this writer that these officials working in international organisations “have corrupted our offices..... And due to this, our staff listens to the international organisations officials more than they listen to its own government.” 

He alleged that by talking and highlighting the conditions of Rohingya refugees, "these international organisations officials and employees have amassed millions of dollars.”

No help from neighbours India, China

Bangladesh has stood alone to face the Rohingya refugee problem. Right from the beginning –  when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar after a military crackdown which began three years ago and settled down in the sprawling refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar - to the present time when the displaced population have started to become a serious security problem for Bangladesh, no country came forward to help. 

Both China and India had promised to help in resolving the issue in the past few years but the reality is totally different. Little help has been extended to Bangladesh to resolve the Rohingya problem. Even in international forums like the UN, no one voted for Bangladesh when it brought a resolution condemning human rights violations in Myanmar, particularly against Rohingya Muslims.

What was more unfortunate is that even Nepal and Bhutan did not vote in favour of Bangladesh in the UN. In November this year, the United Nations adopted a resolution urging Myanmar for a solution to the Rohingya crisis. While India abstained, Nepal and Bhutan did not back the resolution. Bangladesh, on the other hand,  has gone out of its way to help Nepal and Bhutan by using its own vehicles to transport goods to these landlocked countries.

Trade then resolving Rohingya crisis

Europe and the ASEAN countries had earlier talked in support of the Rohingya refugees, but no one is raising the issue now. In the last three years, neither Europe nor the US have done anything to mitigate the problem.  Even ASEAN countries have not taken up the issue. It is important to note that even though Indonesia and Malaysia are Muslim-majority countries, even in ASEAN forums they have not raised their voice for the Rohingyas. 

Instead, many countries, including India, China, Europe, and the US have increased trade with Myanmar.  China, of course, tops the list. China is Myanmar’s biggest foreign investor, contributing 26 percent of the Southeast Asian country’s total foreign direct investment from 1988 to 2018, according to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.  Many countries want to increase their business with Myanmar - Rohingyas be damned. 

The UNHCR, Amnesty International, and other international organizations have all given recommendations to Bangladesh on how to help the Rohingya refugees, but have not come out with any permanent solution to resolving the crisis. Apart from them, there are countless other organizations from Europe to America who whenever they visit the Rohingya camps have some suggestions or the other for Bangladesh for better upkeep of the refugees. 

The Bangladeshi government generously provided a safe haven to this enormous population and has always shown total empathy for their situation.  Foreign Minister Momen made a clear stand when he said: “Is Myanmar responsible for the Rohingyas or is it Bangladesh when Amnesty International says that the Rohingyas are being forced to relocate to Bhasan Char? Why those who are preaching about helping the Rohingya community came to Bangladesh so many times in the past three years but  never once visited Arakan (Myanmar), the homeland of Rohingyas?”

(The writer is a Dhaka-based editor. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at swadeshroy@gmail.com)

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