Migration and refugee crisis have become a global concern with the world’s increasing number of people on the move. The recent movements of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh took place due to the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar. The Rohingyas are stateless and helpless people. The Government of Bangladesh has given them shelter inside Bangladesh and is actively engaged to give them proper services. Some of the international agencies and organizations like UNHCR, UNDP, IOM, etc. also involve themselves to provide help to the Rohingya refugees. However, Bangladesh is a small, overpopulated and third world country. The Rohingya refugees have become a great burden for this country. The other powerful states of the world are less concerned about this crisis. To solve this crisis, strong strategies and policies of Bangladesh and other influential states need to be applied fast. The regional states need to think again about the Rohingyas and to take necessary policies toward this issue. The UNHCR also needs to play a vital role in the decision-making approach. This research aims to find the policy options of the regional states toward the Rohingya refugee crisis. The added information in this research paper will contribute to further researches in this sector.
Keywords: Rohingya, Bangladesh, Refugee, Policy, UNHCR
We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone.’’ -Filippo Grandi
The Rohingya refugee crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis in today’s world. The influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to other neighboring countries is not a new phenomenon. Historically the Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Thailand. In recent times an unusual and larger number of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh as Bangladesh government promised them to give shelter and other basic needs. But now it has become a burden of Bangladesh, day by day the situation is becoming worse.
Discriminatory policies of the Myanmar government force the Rohingyas to flee their country since 1970. The Myanmar government claimed Rohingyas as illegal immigrants and forced them to leave the country (Albert, 2018). Besides Myanmar, the other regional countries have the responsibility to protect the Rohingyas. Several regional policy options have been taken to solve this crisis but they failed in most of the cases. Most of the Rohingyas crossed land into Bangladesh while others went to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Renewed violence, including reported rape, murder, and arson in 2017, triggered a massive exodus of Rohingya amid charges of ethnic cleansing against Myanmar’s security forces. Those forces claimed they carried out a campaign to reinstate stability in the western region of Myanmar. The lack of effective policy approaches by other regional countries made the issue more complicated nowadays (Green, 2015).
The other regional states also have policies regarding the Rohingya refugee crisis but in recent times they are showing less concern toward this issue. This research seeks to investigate the answers to the research questions by analyzing the policies of regional countries toward the Rohingya issue. This paper will also give possible solutions regarding the Rohingya crisis issue.
Read More Who are the Rohingyas?
A Regional Crisis
Myanmar government has the prime responsibility to protect the Rohingyas because the Rohingya population was part of Myanmar. But the Myanmar government is continuously avoiding the issue (Shivakoti, 2017). Within the last few years, the Rohingya refugee crisis has become a complete humanitarian crisis that has regional consequences. This crisis affected the regional countries in many ways. Most of the Rohingyasfleed to regional countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia. Including these countries, other regional countries also have the responsibility to protect the Rohingyas by taking effective policy approaches. But the regional countries lack political and legal framework toward this crisis which is a great resistance to solve this crisis (Green, 2015).
Policies of Persecution
For nearly 50 years, the population in Rakhine State struggled under repressive military rule, and ethnoreligious tensions between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have persisted for generations. Many Rakhine claims to feel threatened by the Muslim population and oppressed by the central government, and they have been forced by the Myanmar government to leave their homeland. The Myanmar government targeted the Rohingya population and other Muslim communities of Myanmar. UN Special Rapporteurs and agencies, international organizations and news media and increasingly Rohingya themselves have documented for decades the adverse impacts of the policies explained in this report. The actual policies, however, have never been published. The current government of Myanmar has made public and private commitments to prevent further outbreaks of violence in Rakhine State and to improve the plight of Rohingya in Myanmar, but it has failed to act decisively. Likewise, members of the international community have paid considerable attention to the acts of violence and forced displacement in Rakhine State since June 2012, but have failed to address adequately the devastating systematic abuses perpetrated against the Rohingya on a daily basis. (As evidenced by Anon, 2014) These discriminatory policies are mainly responsible to make the Rohingyas flee their own homeland.
The shift in Regional Policy Approach
The largest number of Rohingya refugees made Bangladesh their destination. Bangladesh’s government showed a welcoming attitude to accept Rohingya refugees. But day by day the situation is becoming worse. After allowing the Rohingyas inside Bangladesh, it has become both an economic and security threat for Bangladesh. After observing this situation, the government of Bangladesh finally shifted from liberal policy to a realist one. In fact, the serious misunderstanding between Bangladesh and Myanmar generated from unresolved Rohingya crisis as well as Myanmar’s constant denial to accept Rohingyas as citizens of Myanmar are also prescribed as the crucial factors to the shift in policymaking procedures. (Yesmin, 2016)
Malaysian government granted some Rohingya refugees after 2000. In 2004 the Malaysian government announced to accept the Rohingyas inside Malaysia. (As evidenced by ANON, 2004) Though the Malaysian government took some positive initiatives toward Rohingya refugees, it has been gradually changed after facing the socio-economic challenges in Malaysia. The country adopted some rejectionist policies against undocumented refugees. Malaysian government enacted the policy of arrest and detention, tightened border-entry rules and amended the National Immigration Act in order to stop the arrival of Rohingyas into the country. Following the sectarian violence in Rakhine state in 2012, the Malaysian government has again adopted the realist policy towards Rohingyas. (As evidenced by Anon, 2014)
Thailand’s official policy has never been in favor of Rohingya refugees. In January 1998, the Thai government initiated a policy of arrest and detention of illegal migrations to maintain internal security (Caoutte, 2015). In 2004, 2004, Thailand imposed pressure on the UNHCR to suspend screening new asylum seekers from Myanmar. Later the country stopped registering new refugees. After the riots of 2012, Thailand had continued a policy that was less than favorable to the Rohingyas. Men, women, and children were detained in immigration detention centers at different parts of the country. (As evidenced by ANON,2014) Later the Thai authorities agreed to provide humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees in association with international humanitarian organizations (Win, 2014).
China vs India in Myanmar
China is strongly supporting Myanmar on Myanmar’s stand on the Rohingya issue as they have a good diplomatic and economic relation with Myanmar. So China is true to its stance toward the Rohingya crisis issue (Bhaumik, 2017). As China is controlling some Rakhine project they strongly support Myanmar’s stand on this issue. Recently Indian Prime minister paid a visit to Myanmar. He didn’t mention the sufferings of Rohingyas but he praised the leaders of Myanmar for their stand on the Rohingya issue(As evidence by Anon,2018). New Delhi was heavily criticized for deporting the Rohingyas from India. All this raises questions about the responsibility and credibility of India’s status as a rising power when it comes to resolving such crises in the future.
New Delhi’s inability to deal with the Rohingya issue opened the gate for Beijing to capitalize on the Rohingya issue as a comeback strategy in Myanmar. It has used all the effective policy strategies to maintain a more positive relationship with Myanmar and this time, the rise of China in Myanmar is sole to be blamed on India.
Beijing is playing a long game in Myanmar, there is still some space for India to make amends. So this is high time New Delhi needs to take a new Myanmar policy while keeping in mind its own status in the international community.
Bangladesh is an overpopulated country with around 160 million people and the GDP of Bangladesh is not that satisfactory till now. The rising number of refugees cause a negative impact on Bangladesh. So the Rohingya refugees have become an “unbearable burden” to Bangladesh. It has given rise to the multidimensional problem, especially for Bangladesh. Solutions lie with (Myanmar) because the problem was created by the Myanmar government. Bangladesh’s government is trying its best to assist the Rohingyas. Bangladesh took liberal policy toward Rohingyas but now this problem has become hideous. So Bangladesh Government is thinking about taking a realist policy approach toward this issue. The other regional states such as India, Malaysia, Thailand already have taken realist policy approaches toward this issue. As Myanmar already denied the citizenship of Rohingya people inside Myanmar there is little hope for the Rohingyas to get protection inside their country.
However, a close look at the recent policies of regional countries suggests that they give priority to their nation while taking policy toward Rohingya crisis. The Indian government shows less concern toward this issue as they have an economic interest in Myanmar. If they take steps to protect the Rohingyas it will affect the relationship between India and Myanmar. Thailand has a different policy approach toward Rohingyas. But none of them benefit Myanmar as Thailand is more concerned about their country. Malaysian government recently took a policy on behalf of the Rohingyas but the Rohingyas don’t get much benefit under this policy.
Bangladesh wants Rohingyas to take back to their own homeland. Most of the Rohingya are stateless in Myanmar and many fled without documents adding of the newborns in Bangladesh: Without an identity, they have no chance of ever assimilating into any society effectively. It will be a difficult task to send them back to Myanmar. The regional states should take those policies that will help to protect the Rohingya refugees. They should implement those policies that will help to solve this crisis as soon as possible.
The regional states can force the Myanmar government to take back the Rohingyas by taking the following policy approach against Myanmar. They can stop trade and other relations with Myanmar and apply a condition that if Myanmar doesn’t take the Rohingyas back they won’t give maintain any kind of relations with Myanmar. So that Myanmar will fall into a great problem. This may make the Myanmar government take back the Rohingyas. If the regional states who have good relations with Myanmar in terms of trade and politics give priority to their interest with Myanmar first it will be very difficult to resolve this crisis. India is the supreme power if southeast Asia. It needs to move from its stance on the Rohingya issue and show respect to the international community by taking and implementing this kind of policy approach that will be beneficial for the Rohingyas.
When it comes to regional policy option the ASEAN’s ineffectiveness toward this issue is really shameful. Basically Bangladesh and other regional stated have to co-operate with each other to resolve this issue. The ASEAN need to shift their policy options. This is high time the ASEAN will take Rohingya refugee-friendly policy that will protect the rights of Rohingya refugees inside their origin.
From this discussion, we can see that the regional countries need to take every step to send them back to Myanmar. They need to organize their policy in a way that will help Rohingyas to return back to their homeland.UN should take initiatives to compel Myanmar to take their citizens back and ensure safety and security. The whole process should be monitored by UN officials.
The regional states including Bangladesh need effective policy approaches that will be helpful to solve this crisis. Only taking effective policy won’t help in this case, they also need to implement these policies effectively. These policies should also include the interference of international communities to solve this issue. The regional states including Bangladesh need to continue energetic diplomacy with the international community in order to resolve this problem. The regional states should convince the international community that will pressurize the Myanmar government effectively and forces Myanmar to receive the Rohingyas back. Though it is quite difficult to implement this kind of policy as Myanmar government is very strict about their position but it may be possible to force the Myanmar government along with the International community.
To overcome the Rohingya crisis is not an easy task. It needs a long term policy approach. Except Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand the other regional states have different policy approaches. Most of these policies are against the Rohingyas. So they need to change their stand. As regional states, they have the responsibility to protect the rights of Rohingya and send them back safely to their origin Myanmar. So Bangladesh and other regional states need to be more tactful with this issue and also they need to keep the patience to handle this issue patiently. This may help to resolve this issue in an effective way.
Dibbo Reang Tripura Student of the Department of International Relations Bangladesh University of Professionals. Climate Leader of Climate Reality Project. Action leader, UN Environment Programme.
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