The Rohingya issue is currently one of the most important international issues. More than 1.1 million Rohingyas have taken refuge in Bangladesh since August 2017 due to genocide and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. About 50,000 newborn Rohingya children are added to the refugee population every year.
The Rohingya have been subjected to systematic discrimination, deprivation of the right to vote, and regular targeting of violence in Myanmar for decades. They had to come to Myanmar to save their lives after being subjected to extremely inhumane treatment by the military; but their position in Bangladesh has become a cause for concern as some of them have been found to be involved in drug trafficking, child trafficking, smuggling, and other misdeeds. Some of the Rohingyas have even been accused of being involved in militant activities and the recent Ramu attack.
According to various sources, there are about four lakh Rohingya refugees inside Bangladesh and about one lakh outside the country, especially in the Middle East. Moreover, there are reports that underage children in various camps in Cox’s Bazar are being married. Child marriage is a threat to the health of the mother as well as the health of the child. It has far-reaching detrimental effects on women. Adolescent pregnancy can lead to a variety of health problems, including complications in childbirth. In some cases, they are also victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and marital rape. In addition, increasing population density is having a devastating effect on the environment.
In the last four and a half years, despite various initiatives, no real progress has been made in resolving the Rohingya crisis. Under pressure from the international community, the Myanmar government signed an agreement on Rohingya repatriation, but to no consequence. According to the agreement, the Rohingyas were to be repatriated in stages. The repatriation process has not started even after a long time. Bangladesh has repeatedly urged various international fora to take effective steps to resolve the Rohingya crisis. At the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina not only called on the international community to repatriate Rohingyas but also presented six specific proposals. The Prime Minister also raised the issue during his recent visit to France. In such a situation, the UN committee has unanimously passed a resolution urging Myanmar to end the Rohingya crisis. Most importantly, Russia and China did not oppose the proposal. The resolution, introduced by the OIC and the European Union, was unanimously passed by the Social Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, known as the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen considers the support of Russia and China important. He said China and Russia also want a solution to the Rohingya problem. This is positive news for us.
The proposal is based on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in the context of the state of emergency in Myanmar. Top politicians in Myanmar were arrested after a military coup overthrew a democratic government in the country on February 1 and declared a state of emergency. Political unrest, protests and clashes are going on in the country. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the repression of the army. Whatever the context, the unanimous resolution adopted by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly is very important for Bangladesh, with 108 countries having supported it. The proposal calls for finding out the root cause of the Rohingya problem. At the same time, it calls for the implementation of the bilateral agreement signed by Myanmar with Bangladesh. The resolution, with a number of guidelines for the introduction of democratic governance, called on all human rights organisations, including the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, to cooperate.
On the issue, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, Rabab Fatima, said, “This is the first time that the Rohingya resolution has been unanimously adopted by the UN. This reflects the strong commitment of the international community to resolve the crisis. It will inspire new hope in the minds of the displaced Rohingyas.” Rohingyas have become a serious threat to the security of Bangladesh. According to the Foreign Minister, the passage of the proposal would put pressure on Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya. Our hope is that the Rohingya repatriation process will begin soon under this pressure. Bangladesh will also be free from this deadly crisis.
This is the first time since the crisis began in 2017 that a resolution on the Rohingya has been unanimously adopted by the United Nations. Observers say the UN recognition is a reflection of the international community’s strong commitment to resolving the crisis. In addition to the EU and OIC, the resolution is supported and co-sponsored by a large number of countries in various geographical regions, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan, and South Korea.
However, the extra responsibility of this huge number of people is definitely a big burden for Bangladesh. The frustration of the Rohingya is also intensifying due to the lack of progress on repatriation, which is creating various security concerns and instability in the region. There have already been killings in Rohingya camps. Social ills are on the rise there. The administration has to always be in control of the law-and-order situation in the camps. We hope that this crisis will be resolved soon. A political solution to the Rohingya issue is essential for lasting peace, stability, and security in the region. Our bilateral relations with Myanmar are deteriorating due to non-repatriation. The regional crisis is also growing. The locals are suffering from various problems due to Rohingyas. The only way to resolve the crisis is to send the Rohingya back to Myanmar as soon as possible.
Only consistent pressure from the international community can force Myanmar to repatriate the displaced Rohingya. The diplomatic process by the international community needs to be taken forward to put strong pressure on Myanmar to start repatriation.
—The writer has a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Dhaka