22 March 2019
Rohingya people shout slogans as they take part in a protest at a refugee camp in Bangladesh on Aug. 25 to mark the one year anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar. Photo: Reuters
Rohingya people shout slogans as they take part in a protest at a refugee camp in Bangladesh on Aug. 25 to mark the one year anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar. Photo: Reuters

Bangladesh has bigger problem in mind than the Rohingya crisis

The United Nations recently published a report accusing the Myanmar military of genocide against the Rohingya people in Rakhine state in the country.

The UN report also strongly criticized Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is state counselor of Myanmar and the de facto head of the government, for having failed to use her political influence to stop the ethnic cleansing.

However, Suu Kyi has remained defiant amid the international uproar, and insisted that there will be no end in sight for the Rohingya crisis unless Bangladesh fully cooperates.

If the key to lifting the Rohingya people out of their woes really lies in Bangladesh like she said, how can the Dhaka government help in relation to the issue?

The Dhaka government, in our opinion, can hardly offer help because another potentially even worse humanitarian crisis is looming on the horizon for Bangladesh.

In fact all Dhaka can do right now is perhaps urge Myanmar to stick to the repatriation agreement concluded last October and allow the Rohingya people in exile to return home.

That potential humanitarian crisis of even bigger proportions to which we are referring is India’s recent massive purging of Bangladeshi Muslims in the name of combating illegal immigrants in its border state of Assam.

It is estimated that New Delhi’s iron-fist measure, if it continues apace, may eventually leave as many as 4 million ethnic Islamic Bangladeshis stateless and homeless by December this year, potentially triggering a mass exodus of these people to the neighboring Bangladesh.

If that scenario really plays out, Bangladesh could be swamped by an extra 4 million refugees overnight, which would definitely be the worst nightmare for the government in Dhaka.

And that explains why Bangladesh simply won’t have the time or the energy to deal with the Rohingya issue, as the country is now preparing for another far worse and imminent refugee crisis.

As a matter of fact, Bangladesh is currently under siege both within and without.

On one hand, Dhaka has to deal with an influx of refugees; on the other, domestic grievances against rampant government corruption are boiling over.

Following a bus accident that took place in busy Airport Road in Dhaka on July 29 that killed two school kids, tens of thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets to protest misgovernance, which they believed was the root cause of the deadly accident.

It is because in Bangladesh, it has become almost commonplace for bus drivers to bribe local transport officials in order to get their driving licenses approved.

Bangladesh was ranked 143 in the world corruption index published by the Transparency International last year, with the country’s bureaucracy being notoriously bloated and inefficient.

Given that, it would simply be unrealistic for the international community to think it can rely on Dhaka to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 28

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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