Afsan Chowdhury

Denying Rohingyas: Not in our name

June 17, 2012
Photo: bdnews24.com

Photo: bdnews24.com

The image of a Rohingya man pleading to be allowed into Bangladesh from Myanmar with folded hands and a weeping face says it all. But what the image doesn’t say is that the family was refused entry and they moved on to another destination, most probably the one they were trying to escape.

These people have suffered severe trauma and have been forced to leave their homes, the decision a human being takes as a last resort to save his/her family and own life.

Bangladesh’s denial to refugees trying to escape death, suffering and humiliation is one of the most hypocritical ones. For a country whose history has been written with refugees playing such a major role, it has denied one of the very chetonas it loves to speak of. And it has ignored its future when millions of Bangladeshis will seek shelter elsewhere as refugees due to the climate change crisis.

It is our shameful hour, one of our more brainless ones too.

* * *

Myanmar is a country which faces many ethnic problems and the large ethnic minorities — Kachins, Karens, etc — were/are at war with the Burman majority. The ethnic issue has been strengthened by religious identity as well since the Burmans are Buddhists and the others are not. This ethnic and religious animosity have bounded together to produce a deadly combination that has made them fight each other to many deaths.

* * *

Relations between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have been uneasy for generations and tension flared recently after the gang rape and murder of a Rakhine Buddhist that was blamed on Muslims.

Photo: bdnews24.com

Photo: bdnews24.com

That led to the killing of 10 Muslims in reprisal when a Buddhist mob stopped a bus they were travelling on. The passengers had no connection to the murdered woman. In fear of life, many Rohingyas have fled.

Neither Myanmar nor Bangladesh has shown that they care much about the Rohingyas.

* * *

Bangladesh’s foreign minister has said, the refugees will not be allowed in and Bangladesh is not a signatory to any such protocol. She has even added to the plot by blaming the Jamaat-e-Islami for the troubles in the Rakhine state. In her rush to be absurd she sounded more like the Myanmar foreign minister defending a situation which slurs a national reputation and not the Bangladesh FM looking for solutions and finding a way out of an international refugee situation which involves Bangladesh.

* * *

In 1971, Bangladeshi refugees were not popular in India but a policy was at work to let us in. It can be argued that it fitted into the grand strategic design of India to split a not very intelligent state of Pakistan so selfish interest was at work not kindness. Of course, it was selfishness but it doesn’t hide the fact that we did get shelter when everything was under threat.

For Bangladesh, the kind of moral platform certificate we would get, by allowing the Rohingyas would have been of great practical value when we are being trashed universally as violators of rights, patrons of custodial deaths and such crimes. Right now, nothing could have been more splendid than to proclaim to the world that we, despite our poverty, don’t hesitate to provide shelter to the helpless ones in need. That would have been very practical and generous too when the time would come for us to seek shelter for our refugees. And that day is not that far away.

* * *

The last time the Rohingyas came to Bangladesh, the Arabs and the Pakistanis used them to build Islamic militancy outfits to increase its influence in the area. The rise and subsequent scattering of these militant groups led to the proliferation of explosives and weapons in local hands left behind by them. Such caches were regularly found till late and publicised in our media.

The then BNP government was almost certainly aware of such a mischief network but did nothing as a matter of policy. But if the AL wants to stop it from happening, it can take security actions to prevent that but refusal on security grounds is an unacceptably bad excuse.

* * *

Hosting refugees is always a problem and for a poor country like us, it is even more so. But that is exactly the reason why we can also afford to do it. We are so poor it really doesn’t matter because our large scale poverty would not be affected much by an addition of even a few hundred thousands. The number is not significant and fecund Bangladeshis will be adding many more even before the year ends.

Photo: bdnews24.com

Photo: bdnews24.com

And this is a special situation which demands special consideration.   Nobody is saying we have to give citizenship to the Rohiyngas but just shelter from immediate suffering.

Upon his return from Pakistan in January 1972, Sheikh Mujib had said that although a poor country, India had shared whatever food it had with us and we were grateful. We on the other hand, breaking with that spirit have refused the helpless.

* * *

And even if Jamaat-e-Islami has been agitating the Rohingyas, it is no ground for refusal. Whatever a political party may do and whoever is to be blamed, it can’t be a reason for denying the victims sanctuary, a principle on which every other international position stands. Plus, who says this is a fact? What reliable evidence exists of this? And how can that change the fact that the Rohingyas fled in fear of their life?

* * *

We should remember what we did to Rohingya men, women and children because that’s how we shall be treated when Bangladeshis turn refugees due to the adverse impact of climate change. The only two places Bangladeshis can go to are Myanmar and India and we have more or less spelt out how we wish to be treated when our time comes by giving them an example. The massive fencing on the Indian border is not an artwork actually and is meant to keep desperate Bangladeshis out. And India is smart enough to know what that means in refugee generation terms. So when the same situation strikes us we should not expect better treatment.

* * *

Bangladeshis will become refugees and given its size and population, it will always have refugees. If India drives out all the illegal Bangladeshis who work there, what face will we have left to say that India should leave those poor people alone?

Treating the Rohingyas this way must have made the Indians happy because the moral position we held is now gone. We have undermined the only argument we had which was that those who seek safety across the border are poor and vulnerable economic refugees who should not be shot dead like Felani and others. Now no argument will work and we have handed them the excuses through our own callous example.

* * *

Bangladesh is the last country which should have refused entry to the Rohingyas. Because our foreign ministry’s competence level is inadequate, it can rarely negotiate positive terms with international agencies. As a result, we are unable to manage international fund flows to take care of the refugees already here. It is because of our diplomatic failure to convince the Myanmar government to take them back that continues the crisis.

This exceedingly short term thinking of refusal to let them in has taken much of the clout we may have had as the largest producer of refugees before, now and in the future when we will plead for a better deal for Bangladeshis.

We have slaughtered our own present and future.

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Afsan Chowdhury is the executive editor, bdnews24.com.

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52 Responses to “ Denying Rohingyas: Not in our name ”

  1. Khan on July 2, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Those who have no sympathy for Muslims persecuted because of their religion are infidels.

  2. [...] possible death if no country takes them in. This act is shameful on the part of Bangladesh. As one excellent article by Afsan Chowdhury points out: In 1971, Bangladeshi refugees were not popular in India but a policy was at work to let us in. It [...]

  3. Bo Yan on June 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Good article and learnt so much from it.

    Muslims and Rakhaine Moughs lived together in Arakan before Burmese invasion in 1784 and annexed the whole of Arakan within Burmese territory. The Burmese are invaders in Arakan. They only have similar religion between Rakhaine Moughs and Burmese. So the problem is similar with that of Bosnian and Serbs. There will be more genocide and massacre in the Arakan land.

  4. Shahenjeb Antik on June 19, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Instead of giving into the sensationalist media, inconsiderate UNHRC and accepting so many refugees for which we clearly don’t have the resources, Bangladesh government should look into alternate ways of dealing with the situation instead of playing tamed cat. On an urgent basis, all of our border with Myanmar should be sealed. Bangladesh government should exert significant political pressure on Myanmar and ask the international community to do the same. If that fails, the option to use military force should be taken into consideration. Myanmar is not our friend and we shouldn’t treat them as such.

    • Bijoy on June 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      Myanmar today should not be mistake for the poor and backward country from which we too St Martin’s Island. They have a military and navy which is more powerful than ours. With their resources, and new relationship with the US and China, we should exercise caution with them.

      Think of what will happen if they become angry and start arming the ethnic people in the Chittagong Hill tracts. They can tell those people we have stolen their land, and that it must be fought for. Our army can’t resist a well armed insurgency. We would be in trouble.

      As the article mentions, our population is so large, and growing, that we will at least need to access the farming of fertile Myanmar. We should keep that in mind.

      The Rohingya, to my thinking, are Bangladeshis who went to harvest Burmese crops, going to a couple of centuries, who subsequently settled. It may be that the Myanmar government would be willing to make a cash settlement to take them, or would give us access to their fabulous farm land on a contract basis in exchange for housing these people. We should take whatever we can. They will be forced on us later anyway.

      • Shahenjeb Antik on June 21, 2012 at 8:01 am

        Whatever migration happened centuries ago shouldn’t be taken into consideration today. The Rohingyas have been living in Burma for quite some time now and, as such, should be classified as Burmese. We’re already tapping agricultural land in Africa, so I highly doubt Burma can be useful in this regard. There’s absolutely no way Bangladesh should even consider the Rohingyas as Bangladeshis, because they aren’t. As I suggested, military should only be considered after exhausting extensive diplomatic pressure. I don’t see how Burma has a more powerful military than Bangladesh. Our economy is many times larger than theirs, and is growing tremendously. We would leave Burma in a dust in no time. I think the CHT ethnics have better knowledge so as not to fall for any Burmese trap.

      • Shah Arkani on June 22, 2012 at 11:18 am

        It was shocking and sickening to read Bijoy’s response above. His response is neither neutral nor factual. He acted exactly the way the Burmese regime wants, so he might be a mouthpiece of Burmese regime. Also he is for grabbing land and making money at the expense of thousands of Rohingyas’ lives. In other words, he indeed is a blood-sucker. If given a chance, he will probably kill thousands of people to make money!

  5. Md. Rafiqunnabi on June 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Thinking about HUMANITY sitting in an air conditioned room goes with people like the writer.

    It’s a disgust to compare the Independence history of Bangladesh with this communal problem.

    The Rohingya issue is not an international problem, it’s Myanmar’s internal community clash. Why should we let those people to enter our land while their govt. is silent on the issue? More importantly their Nobel laureate in peace Aung San Suu Kyi is silent on the matter. Can anyone guarantee that these people will not create any ethnic problem in Bangladesh?

    And has the writer forgotten the history of this Indian subcontinent? Every religion has invaded the others to expand their empire and by that legacy we, the Bangladeshi people are mostly “Muslims” inaugurated by Bakhtear Khilji.

    Let them solve their own problem. We are not in a position to help the Rohingyas to establish a new country and hope the writer will revalue his sense of ‘Humanity’ in future.

    • Noman on June 20, 2012 at 1:10 am

      We should help them as burma gov is not helping them.

    • Zeeshan Khan on June 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      Comments like yours, sir, are the ones that sound like they are written in air conditioned ivory towers.

      Humanity has noting at all to do with the politics of nation-states. Neither, for that matter, does it have anything to do with religion or ethnicity. We are refusing people refuge. It goes against everything decent and civil about human beings, and in fact, contradicts the very spirit of the country and culture we belong to. So yes, the national Identity and the Independent history of Bangladesh gets called into question during tests like these.

      • Miss Restless on June 21, 2012 at 11:25 am

        I couldn’t agree more! Lets be honest.. Bangladesh could easily open borders to the refugees, but simple fact is, they just dont want the hassle. If they were to allow them entry and refugee status, this would mean following international procedures and protocols, ie it would cost Bangladesh. Of course UN funding would be available but it’s a ‘hassle’ Bangladesh would sadly rather be relieved of.

        When a nation starts thinking like that, you truly start questioning where humanity really has disappeared to.

        If anyone is interested, please do follow http://www.restlessbeings.org as we work to champion the rights of Rohingysn people. Find us on facebook and twitter too :)

    • Shah Arkani on June 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

      It is NOT an internal problem. It is called “ethnic cleasing” or “genocide”. Burmese govn’t is killing them which you seem do not know or do not care. These people are deprived of very basic human rights. Don’t you consider them as human? How did you forget so quickly that millions of former East Pakistanis (now Bangladeshi’s) took refuge in India and Arakan State of Burma when you were in trouble with E. Pakistani rules?

  6. Aftab Ahmad on June 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Bravo Afsan Bhai! Everone in this world has come from somewhere else.
    https://twitter.com/aftab2860/status/215041222459400192

  7. BARRISTER A.RAHMAN on June 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you for writing such a nice article. It’s an eye opener.

  8. motaleb on June 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Mr. Afsan

    It seems that your writing on the issue of Rohingyas is a press statement of BNP, Jamaat, Shibir.

  9. AZAM MAHMOOD on June 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks Afsan. You said it all- “Neither Myanmar nor Bangladesh has shown that they care much about the Rohingyas.” Our PM and FM should read this piece to fathom the depth of crisis and invoke their sense of urgency and humanity.

  10. A Rahman on June 19, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Pithy and thoughtful remarks. Present Govt. is badly in need of comprehending the purport of the remarks.

  11. SZH on June 19, 2012 at 4:08 am

    The write-up by Mr. Afsan is too LOUD and it does not feel like I am reading a write-up by a senior journalist at all. I think Mr. Afsan Chowdhury forgot that we have been taking care of half a million Rohingya refugees for last many many years on the humanitarian ground. Do you know how much money we have been spending to shelter or to provide food and supplies to the Rihingyas each year? Have you done that homework?

    So big write-up, but trust me it is all the same logic people are placing. Liberation War, Bangladeshis getting refuge to other countries in 1971, religious value and for God sake ‘Climate Change’?

    Will climate change not nail the neighbouring countries like India or Myanmar? What will happen that time? Who will help whom? Can anybody help? Will the UNHCR help? US Govt? They could not even provide supports for 27 thousand Rohingyas regularly. How come they are now talking, writing this nonsense in self-defence? Why not they are sitting with Myanmar policymakers the same way.

    Suddenly, the BD media is talking about this issue which has been going on for more than 30+ years. Why are you talking about this now? Because the US is putting pressure on Bangladesh.

    I think we are being eye-washed by some foreign organizations trying to break our backbone. And extremely sad that you people are also talking on behalf of them. If you are really so honest journalists, please try to write to the international community to solve this matter diplomatically. There are hundreds of solutions you can come up with to end the sufferings of Rohingyas. I myself is trying.

    There are may be 8 lakh Rohingyas left in Myanmar right now. If we still continue sheltering the recent flow then it will eventually end no where. Bangladesh has been proving itself as one of the most hospitable, kind and responsible countries. In the case of Rohingya, it is high time that Myanmar Govt. sat with BD Govt.

    My question to you all who is putting fingers on the decision of GoB, why not Myanmar government responding and answering any of the matter? Why only Bangladesh is being pushed by USA and others? Why people like Nang lay (see previous reply on June 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm) and thousand people from Myanmar itself thinks “Rohingyas are not Myanmar ethnics. They are foreigners who came from Bangladesh during colonial period.” For God sake, hundreds of years have passed and (like any other ethnic group) they became the citizen of Myanmar.

    Mr. Asfan, have you tried to know what the citizens of Myanmar have been doing to the Rohingyas? Why don’t you write about that, so that people can urge and request the Myanmar Govt. to solve this domestic problem? Do we ask help from Myanmar or India when Chittagong Hill tract people Vs. Bengalis Vs. Shantibahini fights and kill each other? Because it is our domestic problem and it is us who have to solve it.

    I am writing this reply to request you people to think beyond what you see. Policy, diplomatic decisions and humanitarian commitment is not only Bangladesh’s responsibility. This situation is the outcome of hundred years of suppression, torture and killing. Let us try to support the Rohingyas already sheltered in Bangladesh and try to convince Myanmar to solve their domestic problem. And finally let us put barricade to US to interfere in our situation when they are the biggest WAR criminal of the world. We are not Iraq, Syria where they can intrude with lame excuse.

    UNHCR can come up with crisis management plan which suites both countries.

    I love my country and I am a responsible human being. I wish the same from others as well. And I hate when hypocritical ones (like, US or foreign so called NGOs) try every other alternative to break our backbone and integrity in the name of peace and support. They are just ‘Rajakar’ to me.

    • rahman on July 4, 2012 at 2:18 am

      Excellent comment. I agree with these arguments almost fully.

  12. moe zaw aung on June 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Nations use the phrase “VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS”, “RACIAL DISCRIMINATION”, “INHUMANITY” etc when they want to condemn another country; and vice versa they always say “We will never negotiate with terrorist” as a pretext if they want to murder another human-being to protect their interest.

    Where can someone find the absolute truth in these phrases? How would you brand your deed to ward off the malicious actions performed by another human race who always endeavours to trespass on your land, to violate your kinswomen, to loot your properties and to claim for the right of ownership?

    In such case, which phrase of those mentioned above will suit you?

  13. Kalam Ahmed on June 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Mr Chowdhury may have stated his moral outrage in overly loud terms but the basic premise of his article is a correct one: We of all people should not close our door to people fleeing from death and destruction.

    • rahman on July 4, 2012 at 2:19 am

      Argument without any logic.

  14. Akhtar Shah on June 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Inept and shallow thinking behind refusal is simply too much to take in!
    Invertebrate, knee-jerk, ‘bury head in the sand’ and blaming others’ foreign policy makes the country a laughing stock!

    Time to be gutsy and incisive to show the neighbours and the world how and what to do, ask for specific help from those who can and will.

    Thus set examples!

  15. A Rahman on June 18, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks to Afsan Chowdhury. But I think the present govt. is blind to justice and humanity. Whenever they come to power, fear and anarchy looms intense every where in the country.

  16. A Khan on June 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Giving them shelter would have led to several problems, first and most importantly, we’d be providing an escape route from the settlement of the issue of recognition and territory establishment of the Rohingya community, something that needs to happen right now given that the massive changes in Myanmar’s politics and administration make it potentially the perfect time for this kind of decision.

    If Bangladesh took the Rohingyas in, the issue would be buried and forgotten given that even Aung San Suu Kyi has indicated reluctance to address it for fear of losing political support for the upcoming elections.

    Second, this does not compare to our refugees to India in1971 in any way. In 71 Bangladesh was fighting a war with Pakistan which meant India had a lot of interests involved. Most refugees were helpless women, children and old people, along with freedom fighters who went to train for the war in India. As a host country India knew what it was getting itself into and most importantly that it had a lot to gain from the whole shebang.

    Contrariwise Bangladesh has neither the resources to support a 800,000 strong community of refugees, nor the understanding of its evolving relationship with Myanmar once the latter goes through its incumbent changes to know what will happen in the long run. The focus needs to be- not just for talks between the two countries, but the international and internet communities as well – to create pressure on Myanmar to recognise the Rohingyas and rehabilitate them.

    The problem lies within the comparison analogy and looking at things from the easily subscribable humanitarian point of view. ‘Our government never fails to do only the most despicable thing one can in any given situation. How could they turn away so many people facing almost certain death?’ Think of all the problems we face in Bangladesh on a daily basis. For years we have been termed a ‘basket case’ by countries providing aid and very little is keeping us from succumbing to natural and manmade disasters on top of everything else. Now imagine 800,000 more people coming in to share those same limited resources with no substantial decisions from international aid groups as to supporting them. All it would have done would be bringing these people into more problems as unrest would be created between them and our natives in the South, ultimately leading to socio-political chaos in a country which still has not resolved its issues over its own ethno-religious minorities or Bihari refugees.

    • Kayes Ahmed on June 18, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      All the analysis is great. But, when you have a bullet hole in your chest you do not need to treat cholesterol. Right now these people are dying and being burnt out of their homes. Most of the ethnic Burmese hate (yes hate) the Rohingyas on the basis of race and ethnicity. See some comments in this article. So, we need to mobilize and help and yet create a condition so that these people can have a future in Arakan. No people however weak can be pushed to oblivion in today’s world.

      However, first we treat the hole in the chest, give shelter and massive support. Then we let them organize and work towards a long term solution which may or may not be an armed insurrection. I still remember in 71 we ended up in Silchor without any direction but getting daal and labra twice a day and watching endless Indian matinee on discount. Haathi mera Saathi was my favourite. Pretty soon though we were filtering back into Bangladesh and joining up with organizing forces. That is the natural process. Forget the long term talk, take care of the short-term and long term will follow.

  17. russel on June 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    We surely are slaughtering our humanity. It is really painful to hear that we turning our back against the Rohingyas.

    Our foreign minister should reconsider it and show them empathy.

  18. Noor Islam Pappu on June 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I would like to ask every one of our country to see the FOLDED HAND photo, a man is begging for life from another human being. Put yourself in his shoe and ask yourself what needs to be done.

    Please do something for them; now is the time to show our sympathy and empathy to the people who are in such dire distress.

  19. Nang lay on June 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Rohingyas are not Myanmar ethnics. They are foreigners who came from Bangladesh during colonial period.

    • Kalam Ahmed on June 19, 2012 at 12:13 am

      And who are you to determine who is and who is not ‘Myanmar ethnics’? We have a Rakhine community within Bangladesh. Should we start to dig into when and who gave them ‘Bangladesh ethnics’?

    • Zeeshan Khan on June 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      Rohingyas did not in fact come to Myanmar during the colonial period but have been there long before there was such a thing as a border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

  20. Lapraitoo on June 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Dear Mr. Afsan Chowdhury, Thank you.

    • Lapraitoo on June 19, 2012 at 12:01 am

      Why you did not state my links provided to you this morning, Mr. Afsan Chowdhury?

      I didn’t ask you to mention “Dear Mr. Afsan Chowdhury, Thank you.”, you are a thief here, not a director.

  21. Qing Minya on June 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

    This is a worthless article. The fact is the Rohingyas are killing the Rakkhine and torching their homes. Where the hell is justice here? The pot calling the kettle back!

  22. same on June 18, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Rohingyas are not Myanmar native people. Rohingyas are troublemakers for the Myanmar people. You and everybody can see that Rohingyas are same as Bangladeshis – they look alike, their religion, culture, tradition are similar. like face ,religion

    Rohingyas don’t hesitate to lie to the entire world. They are totally different from actual Myanmar people.

    • Zeeshan Khan on June 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      The Chakmas and the Garo and the Marma dont look like us. The Monipuri and Nagas dont look like Indians. An ethno-centric perspective on nationality is so old fashioned that it’s a worthless thing to even talk about.

  23. As on June 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

    And we should be giving these unfortunate people the ability to defend themselves.

  24. Shafiq on June 18, 2012 at 9:25 am

    We as a nation have shown that all our empathy and humanity evaporates when real sacrifice and contribution are demanded from us. Nations poorer than us have sheltered hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries. If anybody looks at the UNHCR reports on current world refugee population, he/she will see that millions of refugees are being accommodated in Africa and Asia. We can only pray and hope that the world will soon forget this singular act of meanness of our country. Otherwise when we will once again cry for the sympathy of the world, a day that will surely come sooner or later, the world may just decide to act like us.

    • Noman on June 20, 2012 at 1:23 am

      Great point Shafiq bhai.

  25. Mohammad Zaman on June 18, 2012 at 9:01 am

    anti-”chetona” …

  26. M Ahmed on June 18, 2012 at 5:14 am

    But more than anything should not the international organisations, the Myanmar and also the Bangladesh government look for a permanent solution to this problem? Bangladesh has hosted thousands of fleeing Rohingyas in the past and the Myanmar government had not claimed them back. These unfortunate people had been stripped off their basic rights and citizenship in their own motherland by the military government of Myanmar. Now although the political situation in Myanmar has recently seen a ray of sunshine, the government is ABSOLUTELY unconcerned about the welfare of these people. I understand the humanitarian reason involved in Bangladesh helping the Rohingyas, but what about Myanmar? They are their own people.

    And why should not the Myanmar government be equally reprimanded for their actions or lack of action by the international organisations? I believe more than anything, the Rohyngyas deserve to live in the piece of land they have inhabited for centuries. Bangladesh may provide these people with temporary shelter, but if history repeats itself and these people are never allowed to return in their homeland then it will be a loss both for the Rohyngyas and for Bangladesh because ultimately Bangladesh is an overpopulated country.

    The repeated clashes between the ethnic groups of Myanmar must be stopped by any means whether by the local government or international intervention.

  27. Sanjida Khatun on June 18, 2012 at 4:25 am

    You are too generous by far to say that the foreign ministry/minister is inadequate. The sheer lack of minimum decency or minimum grasp of law is staggering.

  28. nbm on June 18, 2012 at 4:07 am

    I work in the areas of climate change for years and I exactly know what you meant when you said Bangladeshis to become climate refugees. Sadly, many so-called NGO officers who recently became climate change experts, carry their passports in their pockets 24/7 to globe trot and talk about the impacts of climate change, they have also taken a stance against allowing some of these helpless people seeking shelter. We have degraded so much. I am ashamed of our recent attitude towards helpless people.

  29. rahman on June 18, 2012 at 3:15 am

    It is a shameful article, one of his more brainless ones too.

    We do not see these people — the so-called big-mouth humanitarians — to urge the international community to take care of these hapless Myanmarese people when they languish in refugee camps for decades together. You may ask the US government to airlift these people to their vast and rich country, instead of sermonizing on Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been among the most sensitive governments around the world to treat the Rohingya refugees for so many years — not to mention the countless number of un-registered Rohingya nationals taxing on our economy, society and so on.

    One of the major reasons of our problem with KSA is these Rohingyas who go to Saudi Arabia carrying Bangladesh passports and get involved in all types of crimes. This is going on for decades without any remedy whatsoever. If the writer had the slightest of idea about what is going on here, he would not have commented that the Rohingya refugees did not return to Myanmar because of the failure of the Bangladesh’s diplomats.

    I had seldom come across such an article on such a serious issue where the author seems to be totally confused: just to mention one of so many confusing statements — he is making analogy of the situations of 1971 Liberation War with the present-day Rohingya situation; and also talking about so-called illegal immigrants in India. The most interesting one is that he is forecasting movement of Bangladeshi migrants to India and Myanmar as ‘climate refugees’ in the near future; so we should behave well with the Rohingyas now. How ridiculous one could sound more than this!

    • A Rahman on June 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

      Such comments may make us understand that the commentator has grossly boosted by Indian agents.

      • rahman on June 20, 2012 at 12:51 am

        You think so because just as much as you have been hugely boosted by Pakistani agents. Try to be a Bangladeshi rather than a Pakistani and think that everybody else is an Indian. Behave well when you make comments on others. you have all your rights to your views, others have the same rights as well. General people of Bangladesh hate such articles written in air-conditioned room shedding crocodile tears for the distressed people in the name of humanity–just to show them off. Has Mr. Afsan Chowdhury done anything for these hapless people who are living under inhuman circumstances in Bangladesh and in Myanmar for decades? Try to do something concrete rather than writing articles criticising everybody. Criticise yourself first–that would be a better deed for you people.

        • Zeeshan Khan on June 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

          He wrote this article. He spread some awareness. thats an act in itself – or do you think all journalism and all writing and all news media is basically just pointless inaction? And besides, what he does or doesnt do is his own business, but it doesnt take away from the truth of his argument.

          • rahman on June 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm

            Certainly, he has all the rights to write his article, just as anybody else has the right to point out how baseless his arguments are. This is not the point here. The point is that we are tired of such type of writings in the name of journalism by the self-righteous people writing in air-conditioned rooms about everything under the sun–as if they are expert on everything–lecturing other people what to do and what not to do. They tend to claim a high moral ground on everything as if they are angels–without demonstrating absolutely any idea about the ground realities.

            I, for one, someone having directly dealt with the Rohingya refugees and the Rohingya economic migrants in Bangladesh, can easily assume that Mr. Chowdhury has never seen or talked to these people or been to the refugee camps. If he had, he would have mentioned about the deplorable and inhumane situation of the refugee camps that these people have been living in for decades; he would have talked about how their presence has created stress in all its senses in the region; he would not have irresponsibly compared the situation with that of 1971 when we faced a war and lived in India for just nine months whereas we are hosting these refuges for long 20 to 30 years; he would have talked about what actually the UNHCR was doing in Bangladesh i.e., instead of fulfilling their mandate through the first option of making efforts to repatriate these people to their homeland to ensure their inalienable birth-right to live in the motherland, the UNHCR is pressuring Bangladesh to locally integrate the 28,000 Rohigya refugees in Bangladesh and also to register the remaining two to four lacs un-registered Rohigyas and then reintegrate those as well; he would have compared the third country settlement programme under UNHCR being undertaken for the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal with the same programme for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: the US and Europe have accepted almost all the more than one lac Bhutanese refugees in their countries whereas the number is below one thousand when it comes to the Rohingya refugees; he would have certainly called on the Western countries (particularly the United States) which shed crocodile tears at every influx of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh to take them all to their countries where they have all the means–land, money, job and so on–to reintegrate in their societies and allow these people to have a dignified life; and he would have most importantly called the Western and European countries, which are eagle-eyeing the natural and other resources of Myanmar in the first opportunity of opening up of the Myanmar regime, to exert pressure on Myanmar through their new-found leverage to urge Myanmar to stop its torture-machine on these hapless people who have been made homeless in their own homeland; maybe he would also call upon the legendary democracy leader Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on an European tour receiving accolades for her struggle for the Myanmarese people– when her country-people were fleeing repression— to not deny the Rohingyas their right to Myanmarese citizenship and support the military regime in Myanmar which is hell-bent to establish a Buddhist state in the country (Mrs. Suu Kyi, taking refuge of the existing citizenship law of Myanmar drafted by the military—which effectively denies citizenship to the Rohingya population in Myanmar—has recently expressed her doubt about Burmese citizenship of the Rohingya people! [she never made a statement on this burning issue on her own during her ‘pleasure trip to Europe’ when some people in Bangladesh are losing sleep crying for the Rohingyas; she responded only when she was asked by a journalist]—you see, why we should be more careful when we irresponsibly try to portray ourselves as humanists and so on).

            It is in all likelihood now that all the Rohingyas living in Bangladesh would live forever in Bangladesh and we would have no option but to accept that fact. The self-proclaimed torch-bearers of human rights—USA, Canada, Europe or Australia— would not come to our rescue in feeding these people or would take them in their rich countries; nor the noble Bangladeshis who are so loudly supporting entry of more Rohingyas to Bangladesh would take care of them—by employing them in their organisations/businesses/homes, etc., for example.

            Mr. Chowdhury did not mention any of these issues in his article; he just wanted to sound like a saint having no regard for the interests of Bangladesh or its people. Bangladesh would have definitely accepted these people on its territory for one more time if Mr. Chowdhury, or the powers on whose behalf he seemed to be lecturing on us, could provide guarantee that when the situation becomes normal, these people would be able to return to Myanmar. Can anybody guarantee that?

            And finally, I fully agree with you that what somebody does and does not is absolutely his/her own business. At the same time— just for comparison and with no other intention—nobody wants to be lectured on the virtues of honest living by somebody submerged in corruption/dishonesty. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that Mr. Chowdhury at least has a decent understanding of the issue when he takes the pen writing against somebody (in this case the Government of Bangladesh). Just because he is a high-ranking journalist, it does not entitle him to write irresponsible articles, which the present article is by any standard, that might wrongly influence public opinion on the issue. Nobody is generalising here, but living in Bangladesh, we know how many high-profile journalists and civil-society ‘nobles’ practice in their personal life what they preach in public (I recall the incident of a few years ago in Dhaka when a high-profile anti-child-labour activist was arrested for cruelly torturing her 9-year-old girl house-labourer with hot kitchen utensils/knife, and she did that just after returning home from a seminar in the capital where she lectured how child labour was disgusting and how the perpetrators of such heinous crime should be punished and condemned in the society). Writing articles and portraying ourselves as saint is the easiest thing to do; we need to do better than just criticising others for their ‘brainless’ and ‘shameless’ acts.

            I wish to reiterate that I am not making any judgement about Mr. Chowdhury here but I am sure that he would not have written such an irresponsible article if he did some research on the issue of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. We need to keep in mind that the journalists have certain professional responsibilities—just as like the people in any other profession (and no profession is superior to the other)—to help people form an informed and objective opinion about such sensitive issues and particularly about issues that have multifaceted ramifications and implications at national, regional and global levels. Thanks.

  30. Roney on June 18, 2012 at 2:33 am

    This sectarian violence and previous state-sponsored violence against these Rohingyas speak of Myanmar’s systematic discrimination against them. More importantly, the reactions of pro-democratic elements are the foretastes of what kind of democracy Myanmar is making transition to. Racism and democracy can’t go together. It is time the Rohingya community understood that on earth the weak has no place to live. So, rather than fleeing the violence, they must adopt any means to make their presence felt in this transitional time in their homeland. They need constitutional recognition, escaping will only make their stance weaker.

  31. Mohammad Zakaria on June 18, 2012 at 1:42 am

    Ex-refugees (1971) refusing present refugees! Where has empathy gone? With what calculation? I feel very little. We already have 8.5 million climate displaced people — future refugees. With 17% land going under water the figure will rise to 30 million. How can the govt policy be so reckless? The last ground — the moral ground to talk against border killing is gone. With what ignorance our blind leaders are pushing us into dark future and parroting vision?

  32. Golam Arshad on June 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Afsan: Correct analysis! Our foreign policy is in a limbo! Who runs the foreign ministry? PM, FM or FA!

  33. Md. Khalequzzaman on June 17, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    “Treating the Rohingyas this way must have made the Indians happy because the moral position we held is now gone.” This says it all. What a shame on Bangladesh’s part! I think our PM needs to step forward and reverse the decision about the Rohingyas. We should control the activities of refugees in terms of what they can do and who they can mingle with while they stay in Bangladesh, but denying them the entry to Bangladesh is just wrong.

    Thousands of Bangladeshis are trying to cross borders of different countries every day, and even though we know it is wrong to do so, we as a nation don’t criticize those Bangladeshis for trying to do the wrong thing. To the contrary, we hope that those countries will open their border to illegal Bangladeshis and allow them into their country.

    Now that the FM Dipu Moni has taken a position against refugees from Myanmar, what will be her position (or anyone’s from Bangladesh) to ask the world to accept those illegal intruders, and the climate refugees? Is the case for them (climate refugees) is as clear as it is for the Rohingyas? How will anyone in Bangladesh be able to prove to the world that climate refugees are threatened for their life, and if they do not enter another country immediately then they may lose their life as is the case for the Rohingyas? Don’t be surprised if the world turn its back to Bangladeshi illegal intruders, illegal immigrants, and the future climate refugees, because you (Bangladesh) have shown them how to treat people in a desperate situation.

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