It is time for a rethink on Myanmar policy on Bangladesh’s part. When the Prime Minister spoke at her press conference on Sunday about Myanmar’s unwillingness to facilitate the million of its Rohingya citizens who have taken refuge in Bangladesh since August 2017 to their homes in Rakhine state, the issue certainly assumed a new dimension. Sheikh Hasina, in the course of her responses to questions on the issue, dwelt on the position of such countries as India, Russia and China. Additionally, she was critical of the role of foreign NGOs. The Prime Minister was emphatic in her assertion that the NGOs were not interested in seeing the Rohingyas go back home.
The Prime Minister’s remarks certainly need to be considered in all the seriousness they deserve because they throw light on a matter over which the global community does not appear to be showing the commitment expected of it. The initial raising of the alarm over the plight of the Rohingyas appears to have been replaced by an attitude of indifference and the burden of dealing with the crisis has been laid at Bangladesh’s door. This is deplorable, for the pressure on Bangladesh has been intense where providing food, shelter and overall security for the refugees is concerned. Unfairly, the Bangladesh authorities have also come under criticism over their plans to move the refugees to areas that can ensure better security for them.
Given such circumstances, it is indeed necessary for the Bangladesh government to reorder its priorities on the Rohingya issue through a formulation of policy that will intensify the need for the Myanmar authorities to agree to take back their citizens. The obduracy of the Myanmar authorities is stupefying. It demonstrates the impunity with which Myanmar has been behaving in relation to the Rohingyas. Its army chief is on record with his hate speeches regarding the Rohingyas. And, of course, Aung San Suu Kyi has kept her silence in a manner that is insensitive.
For Bangladesh, therefore, it is imperative that efforts to compel the Myanmar authorities to enable the Rohingyas to return home be redoubled through a proper and full exercise of diplomacy. Nearly two years have gone by since the refugees began to come to Bangladesh. It is now time for concrete action to be taken. Bangladesh, having experienced Myanmar’s unnatural behaviour, should perhaps approach the United Nations on the issue and perhaps might launch efforts towards influencing the UN Security Council in taking up the crisis in earnest.