ISSN 2330-717X

Why Sri Lanka Should Mediate In Solving Rohingya Refugee Crisis – OpEd

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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 a South Asian country and well trusted friends of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka can easily solve it. Sri Lanka can be mediator in this regard. Sri Lanka 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, Sri Lanka can and should play a very significant role to solve the crisis such ways:

  1. Sri Lanka 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 BIMSTEC and SAARC platforms.
  2. Sri Lanka can negotiate with Myanmar diplomatically and bilaterally. It has good bilateral relations with Myanmar)
  3. Sri Lanka can engage with others regional states to solve the crisis. 
  4. Sri Lanka’s Buddhist society can play an effective role in this regard. The relations of Theravada Buddhists between Myanmar and Sri Lanka are well established. Sri Lankan Buddhist can do it very easily. Buddhism is more related to establishment of Peace and non-violence. Sri Lankan Buddhists can play a significant role in this regard. They can exercise the path shown by the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha. Buddhist will be recognized as the Avatar of human rights if Buddhist community plays to role in solving Rohingya crisis. It will ensure the regional to some extant World peace and communal harmony.
  5. Sri Lanka’s businessmen can engage to some extent. Because stability in the region is very needed for investment.

Why should Sri Lanka Mediate to solve the Problem?

  1. This issue is a humanitarian issue. Rohingyas are the son of Land in Rakhine in Myanmar. They have birth 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 Asian state, Sri Lanka has some responsibilities. 
  4. Sri Lanka 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 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.
  7. Bangladesh has been supporting Sri Lanka at every international forum. For example, in a vote on March 23, the UN Human Rights Council has been given a mandate to collect and preserve information and evidence of crimes related to Sri Lanka’s civil war. In the resolution brought by Britain on behalf of a group of countries, 22 countries voted in favor of the text, 11 opposed and 14 abstained, including Sri Lanka’s neighbors, India and Nepal, and most Muslim majority countries. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Uzbekistan voted against the motion. Now it is time and duty for Sri Lanka to stand in favor of Bangladesh in her crisis moment.

However, Bangladesh has agreed with Sri Lanka to promote bi-lateral trade, work together in maritime security sector like Colombo Security Conclave. Bangladesh-Myanmar-Sri Lanka can work together in maritime trilateral trade, counter terrorism approach, tourism if the problem between Bangladesh-Myanmar is solved. On the other hands, Bangladesh has contribution to Sri Lanka. Bangladesh is providing $250 million loan assistance to Sri Lanka through currency swap. Sri Lanka sought this loan assistance from Bangladesh. This (assistance) proves that Bangladesh is always sincere in regional cooperation. Bangladesh will lend $250 million to Sri Lanka as part of Bangladesh’s efforts to support the island nation suffering from a foreign exchange crisis. Sri Lanka should consider this. Sri Lanka should do somethings in favor of Bangladesh regarding Rohingya refugee repatriation to Myanmar. Sri Lanka can make Myanmar understand and agree in this regard.

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

*Pathik Hasan, Dhaka based researcher

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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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