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Face Rohingya issue upfront

Publication Date : 24-09-2012


With 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees and anything between 200,000 and 500,000 unregistered ones in Bangladesh, the country has long been at the receiving end of all the fallout of a problem created in Myanmar. As if that was not enough, the latest wave of persecution of Rohingyas from the Rakhine state put additional strain on Bangladesh's nerves. The country finds itself between the rock and the hard place. On the one hand, we share humanitarian concern with the rest of the world, but on the other, we are resource-constrained to host any more refugees on a durable basis.

The issue is fundamentally Myanmar's handiwork in more ways than one. They have withdrawn citizenship rights to the Rohingyas some two decades ago and continued with a persecution policy against the ethnic minority in Rakhine state, their historical habitat. Without state support they are unable to coexist with Buddhist majority, so that they are not only stateless but also effectively destitute. Even the Myanmar president holds the position that the Rohingyas should find their place in other countries. This is in contravention of citizenship laws grounded in historical claims, let alone the provision for citizenship by naturalisation that countries can and do apply in legitimate cases.

In a context where, Bangladesh and Myanmar have failed to resolve the problem bilaterally it falls on the international community to intervene and persuade Myanmar to accept its own citizens. The West has levers with Myanmar, which too is opening up to be responsive to such overtures from the former.

Unfortunately though, the international community has not so far come forward to protect the rights of Rohingyas in the same way it defends the rights of minorities in other troubled spots around the world. In that view of the matter, the call going out from the seminar jointly organised by National Human Rights Commission and UNHCR on Saturday in Dhaka must be heeded by the international community.

We wholeheartedly commend and endorse the suggestion for immediately convening an international summit among neighbouring Asian countries, including China, the donor community, Myanmar government and opposition parties and representatives of Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists to address the Rohingya question in its entirety.


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