Why Cambodia Should Mediate In Solving Rohingya Refugee Crisis? – OpEd


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.

Now Bangladesh is 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 is 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 behind the scene. 

Bangladesh Prime Minister has raised the issue at UNGA on September 25, 2021 to draw the attention in solving the Rohingya crisis. She has focused specially on the engagement of ASEAN leaders. It is ASEAN which can solve Rohingya refugee problem easily.

As an active member of ASEAN, Cambodia can easily solve it. Cambodia can be mediator in this regard. Cambodia 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, Cambodia can and should play a very significant role to solve the crisis such ways:

  1. Cambodia can support Bangladesh at every international forum such as at UNGA, regional conference. They can vote in favor of Bangladesh. They can raise the issue in ASEAN platform.
  2. Cambodia can negotiate with Myanmar diplomatically and bilaterally. It has good bilateral relations with Myanmar)
  3. Cambodia can engage with others ASEAN states to solve the crisis. 
  4. Cambodia’s Buddhist society can play an effective role in this regard.
  5. Cambodia’s businessmen can engage to some extent. Because stability in the region is very needed for investment.

Why should Cambodia Mediate to solve the Problem?

  1. This issue is a humanitarian issue. Rohingyas are the son of Land in Rakhine in Myanmar. They have rights to reside in Myanmar. 
  2. It is an issue of Justice. According to Luther king Junior, Nelson Mandela “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Myanmar authority committed genocide. The perpetrators should be under international legal jurisdiction. 
  3. It is the issue of region. The whole South Asia and South East Asia may be volatile for this issue. As a South East Asian state, Cambodia has some responsibilities. 
  4. Cambodia has 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 grater regional interest.
  6. Re-establishing the Himalayan-South Asian connectivity can occur if political and diplomatic solutions of Bangladesh-Myanmar strained ties can be found.

Cambodia is very closed to Myanmar geographically. Thailand is a neighboring state of Myanmar. Myanmar and Cambodia can be able to access in South Asia through Bangladesh. If Cambodia connects itself with Bangladesh-Myanmar-Thailand-India connectivity project and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar connectivity corridor through Thailand, Cambodia would be benefitted. A huge potential is waiting for Cambodia. If the two projects can be implemented truly, Cambodia will be gainer in this regard. Bangladesh-Myanmar improved ties is very needed in this regard. Cambodia is a very friendly country to both Myanmar and Bangladesh 

According to Commerce Ministry of Bangladesh, In the last fiscal year, Bangladesh exported goods worth $5.39 million to Cambodia and imported $0.4 million worth of goods. The government of Bangladesh is thinking of increasing it further. Apart from this, the government is also thinking of providing various facilities to bring investment to Cambodia. 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Bangladesh in 2014 and sent congratulatory messages to Bangladesh on March, 2021 to mark the birth centenary of Its Founder Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s Independence.  He met with Premier Sheikh Hasina in 2017. Bangladesh Prime minister Sheikh Hasina visited Cambodia in 2017. This type of Visits accelerated the ties between the two countries. 10 MoUs were signed during her visit to Cambodia in 2014 to boost up economic, cultural ties. Bangladesh and Cambodia have signed 10 instruments, including nine memorandums of understanding (MoUs), to boost trade and investment between the two countries. The instruments were signed with the aim of enhancing cooperation in various fields like tourism, agriculture, civil aviation, ICT and technical education.

There have many bright potentials of many Bangladeshi products in the Cambodian market. On the contrary, there have huge possibilities of Cambodian products in Bangladesh. Now it is high time to address the need to increase the participation of the private sector in the two countries. Cambodian entrepreneurs should invest in Bangladesh to serve their own business interest. 

Cambodia can play a very significant role in this regard. Cambodia can mediate to bolster the strained relations between Bangladesh-Myanmar. Cambodia can play to repatriate the Rohingyas in Rakhine in Myanmar. Cambodia can easily solve the problem because it has a 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 of Cambodia regarding the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Bangladesh deserves it. So, Cambodia should help, support Bangladesh and mediate in solving the crisis as soon as possible.

* Pathik Hasan, Dhaka based NGO activist, researcher and columnist.

Pathik Hasan

Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka-based NGO activist, researcher and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS (Peace and Conflict Studies) and MSS (International Relations) under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected].

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