By Pathik Hasan
Bangladesh is a Southeast Asian country geographically but South Asian culturally. Myanmar-Bangladesh is a bordering country. On the other hand, Thailand and Myanmar are neighboring countries. There is close historical-geographical proximity among Myanmar, Thailand, and Bangladesh. Trilateral relations amongst these countries were good. The three states could benefit hugely from Myanmar-Bangladesh Ties.
But a little problem between Bangladesh-Myanmar has become an obstacle. Seven and a half lakh Rohingya Muslims have come to Bangladesh to take shelter to save their lives from the atrocities of the Myanmar army in 2017. Bangladesh is trying to repatriate them to Myanmar. But Myanmar doesn’t want to take back them.
Then four years have passed. After that, the initiative was taken to return the Rohingyas but it did not happen. The initial initiative failed. This Rohingya refugee problem has created a long distance between Bangladesh and Myanmar. As a result, the distance between South Asia and Southeast Asia has increased. But if this problem is resolved diplomatically, the whole southeast Asian countries including Thailand and South Asian countries would benefit economically, socially, and culturally.
Bangladesh wants Thailand’s cooperation in Rohingya extradition. Bangladesh wants to speed up the plan after the process was suspended due to a coronavirus infection. As a neighboring and friendly country of Myanmar, Thailand can and should mediate the problem for ensuring the greater interest of the region. If the problem is solved, then greater regional interest would ensure.
Thailand would be able to connect itself by road with the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) corridor. The BCIM corridor will be connected with the east-west corridor and the north-south corridor of Thailand. This will establish direct communication between Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand. Again, using this medium, Bangladesh will be able to go directly to Malaysia, Laos, and Vietnam. On the other hand, Thailand and Myanmar will be able to enter into South Asia, Central Asia.
Thailand wants to establish trade relations with Bangladesh. Connecting Thailand with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor or the BCIM Economic Road Corridor will increase trade between the two countries. Myanmar-Bangladesh good relations is very needed for ensuring this.
As the Rohingya crisis has become a regional and international issue, Thailand as a regional state can play a significant role in the peaceful repatriation of Rohingya citizens who have been forcibly displaced by Myanmar and taken refuge in Bangladesh. If the Rohingya problem is not resolved soon, it could be an obstacle to peace and progress in the region. The longer the Rohingya crisis cannot be resolved, the more likely it is that the issue could become a breeding ground for fundamentalism, exploited and manipulated by terrorists.
For decades, Myanmar has gone through extreme cruelty to the Rohingya. Never cared about the law. The Rohingya problem is not new to Bangladesh. This problem, which started in 1978, became apparent in August 2017. More than 1 million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to save their lives when the Myanmar army launched a brutal operation against the Rohingya ethnic group. Bangladesh is seeking the intervention of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations as well as the regional alliance ASEAN for a lasting and acceptable solution to the Rohingya problem. On the other hand, there are also some Rohingyas who are living in Thailand. There is no data on the total number of Rohingyas in Thailand, but unconfirmed reports suggest there could be between 3,000 and 20,000.
However, Bangladesh is now facing serious problems for this artificial crisis committed by Myanmar. Some socio-economic threats are rising in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has given shelter to Rohingyas for humanitarian reasons. But because of this humanity, the country is now at risk. As a result, there is a danger of Rohingyas spreading all over the country, there are also many challenges
The forest is being uprooted, they are cutting down the mountains and destroying them. There are also long-term economic risks Socio-economic and political problems may also be evident, and security risks may increase. Illegal narcotics trade, human trafficking, prostitution, terrorism in Rohingya camps are increasing in camps.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar within two years in 2017 and 2019 respectively. The Myanmar authority did not take back the Rohingyas according to the agreement. It is true that they don’t want to repatriate Rohingyas in Myanmar. Bangladesh raised the issue in every international forum. Many countries have supported Bangladesh. But Myanmar has no respect the international law and norms. Some mighty powers may have been behind the scene.
Bangladesh Prime Minister has raised the issue at UNGA on September 25, 2021, to draw attention to solving the Rohingya crisis. She has focused especially on the engagement of ASEAN leaders. It is ASEAN that can solve the Rohingya refugee problem easily.
As an active member of ASEAN, Thailand can help to resolve it. Thailand can be an honest mediator in this regard. Thailand has very warm relations with both Myanmar and Bangladesh. Various countries and international organizations have taken various measures to solve the Rohingya problem. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has criticized Myanmar authorities for being lax in repatriating displaced Rohingya. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed deep concern over the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Yang Lee, the UN special envoy for human rights in Myanmar, said all major countries in the world had a responsibility to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
In this regard, Thailand can and should play a very significant role to solve the crisis such ways:
1) Thailand can support Bangladesh at every international forum such as at UNGA, regional conferences. They can vote in favor of Bangladesh. They can raise the issue in BIMSTEC and ASEAN platforms.
2) Thailand can negotiate with Myanmar diplomatically and bilaterally. It has good bilateral relations with Myanmar
3) Thailand can engage with other regional states to resolve the crisis.
4) Thailand’s Buddhist society can play an effective role in this regard. The relations of Buddhists between Myanmar and Thailand are well established. Thai Buddhists can do it very easily. Buddhism is more related to the establishment of Peace and non-violence. Thai Buddhists can play a significant role in this regard. They can exercise the path shown by the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha. Buddhists will be recognized as the Avatar of human rights if the Buddhist community plays a role in resolving the Rohingya crisis. It will ensure regional to some extent world peace and communal harmony.
5) Thai businessmen can engage to some extent. Because stability in the region (for both South Asia and Southeast Asia) is very needed for investment.
Why Thailand should Play role in resolving the regional problem?
1) This issue is a humanitarian issue. Rohingyas are the son of Land in Rakhine in Myanmar. They have birthrights to reside in Myanmar.
2) It is an issue of Justice. According to Luther king, Junior “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Myanmar authorities committed genocide. The perpetrators should be under international legal jurisdiction.
3) It is the issue of the region. The whole of South Asia and South East Asia may be volatile for this issue. As a South Asian state, Thailand has some responsibilities.
4) Thailand has very good relations with both Myanmar and Bangladesh.
5) Enhancing bilateral relations could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and SAARC countries. This will create an opportunity to serve greater regional interests.
6) Re-establishing the Himalayan-South Asian connectivity can occur if political and diplomatic solutions of Bangladesh-Myanmar strained ties can be found.
7) Bangladesh has been supporting Thailand at every international forum. Now it is time and duty for Sri Lanka to stand in favor of Bangladesh in her crisis moment. Thailand-Bangladesh relations have the potential to further strengthen ties for regional and global peace, progress, and prosperity.
8) For greater regional connectivity such as implementation of BCIM, Asian High way project.
9) To create opportunities for Thai investors to access the South Asian markets easily.
10) Rohingya refugee crisis and internal crisis in Myanmar can be regional crises. Thailand can be a sufferer. Terrorism, insurgent movement, illegal narcotics trade, human trafficking are some concerning issues.
11) To strengthen trilateral ties amongst Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh for the interest of the people.
However, Thailand is a close friend of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a long history of trade and cultural ties with Thailand. Thailand has been cooperating with Bangladesh since independence in 1971 under the leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Thailand should consider these issues. Thailand should do some things in favor of Bangladesh regarding Rohingya refugee repatriation to Myanmar. Thailand can make Myanmar understand and agree in this regard.
Thailand can play a very significant role in this regard. Thailand can mediate to bolster the strained relations between Bangladesh-Myanmar. Thailand can play to repatriate the Rohingyas in Rakhine in Myanmar. Thailand can easily resolve the problem because it has very good relations with Myanmar.
However, as a well-wisher friend and partner in the development process and trade, Bangladesh can expect cooperation and support from Thailand regarding the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Bangladesh deserves it. So, Thailand should help, support Bangladesh and mediate in resolving the crisis as soon as possible.