The recent direct and indirect pressure of the World Bank on Bangladesh to accept the Rohingyas permanently has really shocked many in the world, including the people of Bangladesh. The World Bank, through its ‘Refugee Policy Review Framework’, is showing the temptation of loans and asking Rohingyas to be given equal status as citizens of Bangladesh. Moreover, the Rohingyas are being given the opportunity to move freely all over Bangladesh, including the local market, and to be given the opportunity to be educated in the local language, Bengali. The program proposed by the World Bank seems to be an international conspiracy to integrate the Rohingyas in Bangladesh. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh has strongly rejected such an unreasonable proposal.
The independence, sovereignty and stability of Bangladesh will be at great risk and the geopolitical situation in the region will become more complicated if this average proposal of the World Bank is accepted. The World Bank’s proposed framework for refugee-receiving countries, including Bangladesh, has three objectives: to create economic opportunities for refugees and the host community, to integrate or repatriate refugees into the country where they live, and to increase the country’s capacity to accommodate new refugees. If such a proposal is implemented, it will be a major obstacle for the future repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh and all the initiatives taken by Bangladesh so far for the dignified return of Rohingyas will be thwarted.
More than half million Rohingyas entered Bangladesh after 25 August 2017 being persecuted and tortured by the Myanmar military. More than 1.1 million Rohingya, including previous Rohingya refugees from the 1970s and later, are currently living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Despite being a small country with a large population and developing, the government and people of Bangladesh show generosity and accept the extremely persecuted Rohingyas. But due to the cunning and reluctance of Myanmar and the geopolitics and failures of the international community, it has not been possible to send back a single Rohingya.
Rakhine (Arakan), the homeland of Rohingya, a vast plain and the 1200 mile coastline of the Bay of Bengal which is considered a geo-strategic land due to competition between China, India and Japan there. Moreover, Myanmar, known as the gateway to the Southeast Asian region, is of great importance to the QUAD countries (United States, Australia, India and Japan) to prevent Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean. That is why in 2017; 24,000 Rohingya were killed, 18,000 Rohingya Muslim women and girls were raped and 36,000 Rohingyas were burnt to death in a “clearance operation” conducted by TATMADAW (Myanmar Armed Forces), but the international community has not been able to take any practical and timely steps except for some sanctions and condemnation proposal and statements against Myanmar. In addition, a military coup led by Myanmar’s junta chief Min Aung Hlaing on February 1 has become like a blow to the head. Even after the killing of nearly 1,000 ordinary Myanmar civilians in a post-coup movement, selfish and unscrupulous countries continue to support TATMADAW, both directly and indirectly. Myanmar’s military junta chief Min Aung Hlaing’s attendance in ASEAN special conference and Russia’s security conference on 24 April and 22-24 June respectively, Chinese foreign minister meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers including FM nominated by Myanmar’s military government on 7 June, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s Virtual Meeting with ASEAN Foreign Ministers on 14 July, Japan’s virtual meeting with the foreign ministers of the five countries bordering the Mekong River (including the foreign minister of Myanmar’s military government) on 6 August and more events such as the ASEAN Regional Security Conference, in which representatives of Myanmar’s military government attended; demonstrate the importance of Myanmar’s natural resources in world politics over the Rohingya genocide and the lives of ordinary people of Myanmar. And in this geopolitical machination, the issue of Rohingya repatriation has been dragging on for a long time, which is not possible for a developing and densely populated country like Bangladesh to accept and support the Rohingyas temporarily or permanently.
On the other hand, the international conspiracy through the unsolicited proposal of the World Bank is making Bangladesh which has been extending a hand of humanity to the Rohingyas for the last 5 years think more. Issues such as the inclusion of about 1.1 million Rohingya in Bangladesh under the temptation of debt and the preparation to accept more refugees in the future seems to be an incentive for the 6 lakh Rohingyas living in Myanmar to enter Bangladesh in the future. By implementing this proposal of the World Bank, the world conscience wants to know who is gaining interest by liberating the entire Rakhine state from Rohingya.
Is the United States which is the leader of the World Bank and owns the majority of its shares going to appease Myanmar’s military junta, the mass murderer of Rohingya, in the name of democracy and human rights? If not, the United States should force the World Bank to disburse loans to countries like Bangladesh for the sake of humanity, ignoring unreasonable and unscrupulous loan terms.
Finally, the conscientious world must play a leading role in thwarting conspiracies to erase the ethnicity of the world’s most persecuted Rohingya ethnic group and to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingya to their homeland. Bangladesh for now can take initiative to awaken the conscience of the self-interested states through its diplomatic efforts.
*Tonmoy Chowdhury is an independent researcher. He is interested in Refugee and Migration, Human Security Issues, South Asian Politics and Economic Diplomacy. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected]