Md Touhid Hossain
There can be three different options to resolve such a crisis as serious as the Rohingya problem. Firstly, the Rohingyas can return to the place from where they were driven away. Secondly, if they cannot return to the homes of origin, they can be rehabilitated in a third country. Thirdly, they can be absorbed in the country where they have taken shelter.
Given Bangladesh’s population in proportion to its area, there is no scope for the Rohingyas to take up permanent settlement here. Interestingly, the international community in recent times has been placing more emphasis on this third option, rather than the first too.
The two efforts that had been made to repatriate the Rohingyas by means of bilateral talks, saw the possibility of merely 2000, 4000 or 10,000 Rohingyas returning. Myanmar from the start that been talking about taking back 2000, 4000 or 10,000 Rohingyas. They wanted to use this to save face in the international arena. This will not benefit Bangladesh in any way. And neither is this a solution to the Rohingya problem.
In the four years since the influx of the Rohingyas, we see no hope. China had taken up a tripartite initiative to resolve the crisis. They are the only ones who can make Myanmar acquiesce. But as always, China still supports Myanmar’s military government. It has high geopolitical ambitions.
China is supposed to have extensive infrastructural projects in Rakhine. They will have a huge requirement of labour then and so it can be of great help to China if the Rohingyas return. The Rohingyas, deprived of rights as it is, may be agreeable to work as cheap labour in Rakhine
The Rohingyas will not return to Rakhine at mere reassurance from the Myanmar army. China is supposed to have extensive infrastructural projects in Rakhine. They will have a huge requirement of labour then and so it can be of great help to China if the Rohingyas return. The Rohingyas, deprived of rights as it is, may be agreeable to work as cheap labour in Rakhine. But there are no visible signs of China having any such intentions.
However, the case in the International Court of Justice pertaining to the Rohingya genocide in Rakhine is an important issue. If the court declares its verdict against Myanmar for the genocide in Rakhine, the country will be in trouble. And the countries, including the countries of the West, that have been so eager to invest in Myanmar and do business there, will also be in an awkward position. They will feel that it won’t be correct to do business with Myanmar. With the verdict at the fore, they can use it to put pressure on Myanmar.
The activities of Myanmar’s government in exile must also be taken into cognizance. Significantly, they use the word ‘Rohingya’. They have called the Rohingyas, Rohingyas. They have issued letters accordingly. The exiled government has also declared that it will accept the International Criminal Court’s stand on all the international trials of crimes in Myanmar over the past 20 years. These are significant decisions.
Questions may remain as to how effective these decisions may be, but it is significant that the democratic forces of Myanmar are talking about Rohingya rights. That is why the Rohingya youth sheltered in Bangladesh should join the government in exile. And if Bangladesh has the scope, there is no harm in talking with the exiled government of Myanmar. Rather than remaining detached from them, there may be a positive outcome in establishing communication with them.
There can be no guarantee that that there will definitely be a peaceful solution to the Rohingya problem. There huge number of youth growing up in the camps may easily turn to crime if they see no other hope in front of them. And so attention must be paid so that the shadow of unrest does not fall upon us. After all, the international community has done nothing tangible other than give a plethora of verbal assurances.
* Md Touhid Hossain is former foreign secretary