A person rarely gets more than one or two opportunities to make a decision that will mark history. The Rohingya crisis, however, is one such circumstance.

The current situation has two major aspects that need to be addressed. The first, the humanitarian issue, has been handled well by Bangladesh. It has given the hapless victims of genocide s nohelter and an assurance that they will not be handed over to the Myanmar military.

Make no mistake: very few countries, save for Turkey and Germany, have welcomed refugees with open arms. This has also been a brave decision for a country hit hard by one of the worst flood seasons in the last two decades and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves praise.

The next steps must be to give aid agencies unfettered access to Rohingya camps and to engage the international media to highlight the ethnic cleansing policy the marauding Myanmar army has unleashed on one of the most persecuted minorities of our time.

However, this approach is only the first step towards solving a crisis that, like he mythical serpent hydra, keeps rearing new heads.

The other major aspect is the matter of international diplomacy, where Bangladesh’s first hurdle is China. The latter has a huge stake in Myanmar, especially Rakhine state and its northern territories, which is both rich in mineral resources and home to the Rohingyas. China is understandably worried and does not want to upset the status quo in Rakhine.

China must be assured, and rightly so, that any new scenario favourable to the Rohingyas in northern Rakhine will not harm the country’s role in the economic development of the region.

Once China comes onboard, and with our close ties to India, Bangladesh should use its relationship with Russia and three other permanent members of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution calling for a UN-mandated safe zone for the Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine.

Turkey, a NATO member, has shown interest in the plight of the Rohingya, and has expressed its concern about the persecuted minority. The country has also recently recalibrated its foreign policy to acknowledge Russia’s growing stake in post-ISIS Syria and is thus in a position to persuade Russia and China to tilt their foreign policy in favour of the Rohingyas.

The resolution, like all such proposals, will not be passed in a day or at the first opportunity. The process will be long and labourious.

But once the blue helmets are on the ground, a plebiscite can be held in Rohingya-majority northern Rakhine on the future of a Special Rohingya Autonomous Zone (SRAZ). Save for finance, defence and foreign affairs, the other functions of state will be controlled by the SRAZ.

This can be done within the constitutional framework of Burma and while respecting its sovereignty. However the SRAZ should have the right to secede from the Union after 10 years through a plebiscite, until which time the UN should stay in the region.

Plebiscites like this are common, as one can recall a similar UN mandated arrangement in the East Timor region, which eventually led to its independence from Indonesia.

Every crisis brings opportunities. But only the brave and the bold can steer it in their favour.

Ahmede Hussainis a writer, editor and journalist. He has just left The Daily Star where he worked in six capacities for 15 years.

3 Responses to “Solution to Rohingya crisis in UN safe zone”

  1. Shelley Shahabuddin

    I strongly support this proposal.

    Earlier I myself proposed through these comments for a permanent UN Peace keeping mission in Rakhaine province of Myanmar. That is a need whatever is the result of plebiscite.

    The reason, as provided recently by one University expert on international issue is that Myanmar government does not understand the languages used by International community. They only understand language of force; in other words, ‘Military’.

    In fact, last few days, we have seen nothing but brutal counteroffensive from Myanmar against all international call for humanitarian approach.

    In all our mass media, what I see is expression of appreciation for the humanitarian approach of Bangladesh, and intense anxiety about the dangerous consequences for Bangladesh if this Myanmar population is not removed from Bangladesh.

    So, I also propose that if International community is unable to persuade or force Myanmar to take its population back, it should equally share the population with Bangladesh, as they did in the case of Middle East Population recently.

    Why Bangladesh should always be the victim and suffer?
    1. International community has done nothing about the Pakistani refugees stranded in Bangladesh.
    2. Similarly, they are not supporting our demand for resources and assets that Pakistan took away from us.
    3. They are yet to support the recognition of 1971 genocide in Bangladesh by Pakistan.

    And now this immense burden of a huge Myanmar population also on Bangladesh!

    Does anyone knows what more the World would next want from Bangladesh?
    Are we to become the ‘trash bin’ of this part of the World?

    • nasima sultana

      What about Britain compensating Bangladesh for their role of 200 years of enslaving, murdering and starving them during the Bengal famine 14 times?

  2. Richard

    This seems like a viable proposal, not very different from what’s been recommended by the Annan Commission.
    Given the post-Annan report catastrophe, the thrust of any UN effort would be to respect the territorial integrity of Myanmar, but at the same time to ensure the rights of the Rohingyas as equal citizens. This will ensure peace in the province, a pre-requisite for Chinese investments.

    China and Russia should be impressed upon the fact that lack of a political solution may give rise to extremists taking advantage of the situation, which can further destabilise Myanmar as they have other disaffected ethnic groups like Shan and Karen.


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