The recent exodus of approximately 400,000 Rohingyas from the Arakan province of Myanmar to the coastal part of Bangladesh is the result of systematic ethnic cleansing. This ethnic cleansing is due to the religion and the skin colour of the Rohingyas. Historically these inhabitants have lived in the Arakan province of Myanmar for hundreds of years. They have been systematically decimated and their lands, houses and crops have been set on fire by the Myanmar military junta and the Mog people.
In order to understand the situation it is necessary to define ethnic cleansing and cite some examples. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ is defined as the attempt to get rid of, through deportation, displacement or even mass killing, members of an unwanted ethnic group in order to establish an ethnically homogeneous geographic area. Ethnic cleansing is happening across the world. The Rohingya crisis is only the latest to receive international attention. This mass influx will have a major political, social and economic impact on a small nation like Bangladesh.
The Nazi Holocaust, which killed some six million European Jews, the Turkish massacre of Armenians during World War I, the forced displacement and mass killings carried out in the former Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide during the 1990s are examples of ethnic cleansing.
After the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence in March of 1992, Bosnian Serb forces waged a systematic campaign – including forced deportation, murder, torture and rape – to expel Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croatian civilians from territory in eastern Bosnia. This violence culminated in the massacre of as many as 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at the town of Srebrenica in July, 1995.
Now let’s focus on ARSA — the Arakan Salvation Army — who are involved in some insurgent activities with the support of some Islamic countries in an attempt to establish a Rohinyga state. The research shows that this group lacks the vision, mission and objectives for such struggle. It is a futile attempt to make the Burmese bow down to them and give in to their demand for a separate state. Those pseudo-intellectuals who advocate for the ‘liberation’ of Arakan for the Rohingyas and compare that situation to Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Liberation are living in a fool’s paradise. We must consider the philosophy of this insurgency, its mission and vision of the struggle. From my secondary research it seems that Rohingyas simply want citizenship and rights within Burma. In fact the 1.5 to 2 million Arakan inhabitants are not fighting for an independent Arakan. But, in recent years ARSA has pushed for a separation which will be counterproductive without any foreign help! In the 21st century no foreign country would wage a war with Myanmar.
So the Arakan separatist movement is a non-starter for the Rohingyas. It lacks the political will, mass movement and mass mobilisation for issues that affect the Rohingyas. If ARSA continues with this armed insurgency, the Burmese military junta is likely to drive out or kill all the 1.5 to 2 million Rohingyas. Vested interest groups, like China, the US and India, could then extract gas, oil and other natural resources from the abandoned land.
The pitfalls for Bangladesh are immense. Firstly, we would have to bear the bill for the accommodation, food and shelter of 400,000 to half a million refugees. But the costliest part is the infiltration the ARSA members, who could be used by quarters such as ISIS, the Taliban, Hefazat or Jamaat-BNP to destabilise Bangladesh. It will not only impact the social and political fabric of the country, but will also turn back the economic development we achieved in the last decade.
The Bangladesh government must now play its cards with great care on both the domestic and international fronts. Our diplomatic efforts have to be swift and efficient. Strict security measures should be adopted in consideration of Bangladesh’s interests. Put complete faith and trust on our efficient stateswoman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resolve the issue once for all.