Rohingya rebels call one-month ceasefire as exodus grows: What is the situation right now?

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Published:September 10, 2017 5:22 pm

Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Rohingya Muslims are considered one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world, as per the United Nations. The long stretching violence against the community in Myanmar’s Rakhine state has prompted tens of thousands of Rohingyas to migrate to safer territories – most preferring Muslim-majority Bangladesh. The exodus has caused a massive refugee inflow into Bangladesh–something which the Bangladeshi government sees as another crisis in itself. It has sought out India’s diplomatic help to pressure Myanmar for putting a stop to the Rohingya exodus.

So what is the situation of the Rohingya crisis now?

Till now, the Burmese state counsellor Aung San Su Kyi has maintained that the people attacked in Rakhine were jihadists and militants and that the lockdown by the military was only a measure to ensure security from any extremist or radical organisation. The crisis has largely opposed any foreign aid or intervention with even former UN chief Kofi Annan protesting against intervention in the matter when he visited Burma earlier.

New Delhi has reiterated its intentions of handling the situation with restraint and maturity and that the welfare of civilian population and security forces should be the focus.

Bangladeshi High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali met Jaishankar on Saturday to express his plea. According to a report in The Sunday Express, Ali met Jaishankar on the directions of the country’s prime minister and explained in the 40-minute meeting their difficulties to the Indian government. He told Jaishankar that the Rohingyas were an economic liability on them and there was even hardly enough land to provide shelter for them.

Bangladesh is apparently seeking the help of others in the international community as well like support from Turkey, Germany, UN, Red Cross etc for creating a safe zone in Burma for Rohingyas. According to the report citing a Dhakha official, Bangladesh has already soaked up the exodus of 1,64,000 Rohingyas and is overburdened.

The Indian Foreign Ministry has taken the expected diplomatic stand expressing concern over the Rakhine situation and the exodus. This was a step away from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s take on the situation during his recent visit to Myanmar between September 5-7 when he described the Rakhine crisis as one of extremist violence. He had praised Aung San Su Kyi for her handling of the ‘peace process’ in the region.

Apart from the mixed responses to the situation, what was said without dispute last month by the Indian government was that the already present 40,000 Rohingyas that came to India over the years were likely to be deported.

The nationality of the Rohingyas is disputed by both Myanmar and Bangladesh. While the former considers them erstwhile migrants from Bangladesh, Bangladeshis consider them refugees and outsiders. As it stands, they are considered stateless. The over 10 lakh strong community is facing the brunt of the assault from Burmese state and military forces. Reports have alleged attempts of ethnic cleansing and the crisis that emerged last October has drawn the ire of the international community.

What the UN says about the Rohingya crisis?

According to UN records, nearly 5,500 Rohingya refugees have been registered and spread out across various parts of the country. The group doesn’t have legal citizenship of any country and that makes it all the more complicated for governments to tackle the issue. The current crisis can largely be attributed to the Burmese government’s citizenship law that it brought in 1982. It provides citizenship to those people who had proof of ancestry residing in Burma before the start of the British colonial rule in the country. Rohingyas are now classified as associate citizens.

Meanwhile, the UN has appealed for aid to deal with a humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Bangladesh after the number of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar neared 300,000, just two weeks after violence erupted there. The UN said in a statement that the wave of hungry and traumatised refugees is “showing no signs of stopping”, overwhelming agencies in the Cox’s Bazar region already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous spasms of conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

UN’s Resident Coordinator in Bangaldesh Robert Watkins said: “It is vital that aid agencies working in Cox’s Bazar have the resources they need to provide emergency assistance to incredibly vulnerable people who have been forced to flee their homes and have arrived in Bangladesh with nothing.”

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