CHENNAI, India, 1 December 2017
The governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar, two economically and technologically less-developed Asian countries, have exhibited extraordinary qualities of wisdom and understanding in reaching an accord for peaceful repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, who are now in Bangladesh, to return to Myanmar.
When the so-called economically and technologically developed countries are engaged in bitter conflicts directly or indirectly in various parts of the world, these two Asian countries have shown to the world how civilized behavior between two countries is possible, however “under-developed” they may be.
Apart from this, the Rohingya crisis once again has highlighted the ground reality that the United Nations Organisation has become a helpless agency that is not able to influence or implement any positive peace accord anywhere in the world. In the conflicts between different nations, UNO at best provides a forum for exchange of views, and perhaps bitter remarks, but can serve no other purpose. The Bangladesh and Myanmar governments have virtually received no support from UNO in resolving the Rohingya crisis.
According to United Nations, more than 620,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 2017. They now live in squalor in what is described as the world’s largest refugee camp.
The UNO, USA, and several other countries condemned the Myanmar government for the lakhs of refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, terming it “ethical cleansing”. It is remarkable that the government of Bangladesh, which is the one directly affected by the influx of refugees from Myanmar, reacted with caution and understanding, and did not unduly criticise the Myanmar government. In spite of the extremely difficult conditions faced by Bangladesh as thousands of refugees walked into its territory, the Bangladesh government kept communication channels open with Myanmar. Such a healthy and civilized approach by the Bangladesh government has now made possible the accord with Myanmar to reach a repatriation agreement.
Showing high level of lack of understanding of the ground realities in Myanmar, UNO and several countries, including the US, accused Myanmar of launching a military crackdown on the Rohingyas. Several so-called human rights activists even called for withdrawing the Nobel Peace Prize accorded to Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar (a position akin to Prime Minister).
The fact is that the Rohingya issue has been haunting Myanmar for the last several decades, and it is not a problem that happened after Aung San Suu Kyi took over.
This is a case of typical conflict of interests between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists, with militant groups infiltrating the Rohingya camp and waging violent conflict. It was a serious law and order scenario. Any government has to necessarily react with force when such conflicts between two sections of people happen, to restore peace and harmony. Every country in the world, including Russia, China, and the United States, have used force to quell riots when violent clashes take place in the country. In the case of Myanmar, the military has to come down heavily, since section of Rohingyas armed themselves, obviously with the support of militant and terrorist groups from elsewhere, and indulged in arson and killings.
Rohingyas in Myanmar are people living in extreme poverty conditions, with little education. Most of the Rohingyas are not part of the militant group who indulged in violence, and they had to face the brunt of the fight between the army and Rohingya militants and helplessly run to Bangladesh to save themselves.
After so many anxious days of Rohingya refugees running towards Bangladesh in huge numbers, what needs to be recognized is the fact that Myanmar government has not disowned the Rohingyas and is willing to take them back and do whatever it can to settle them in Myanmar. This attitude of Myanmar government effectively disproves the allegation of the UNO and USA that Myanmar was indulging in ethnic cleansing.
What is particularly shocking is that the United Nations Refugee Agency has raised concern about the repatriation agreement instead of welcoming it. The UN agency says that the conditions to enable refugees to safely return to Rakhine state in Myanmar are not there.
Instead of taking a proactive stance towards this healthy and progressive repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, UNO is taking a negative and counter-productive stand, which is not in tune with the objectives and cherished goals of UNO. Let UNO do whatever it can to facilitate implementation of the agreement in the best manner possible, instead of being an armchair critic.
The attitude and approach of the Myanmar government towards the Rohingya refugees is in sharp contrast to the attitude and approach of Chinese government towards Tibetan refugees. Obviously, this highlights the fact that one need not expect that an economically and militarily strong nation will always adopt a civilized and compassionate approach towards its neighbours.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.