June 7, 2023
DHAKA – The Rohingya crisis continues to leave a tragic trail of immense suffering and injustice. As a persecuted minority group, the Rohingya people have endured decades of oppression, displacement, and violence, which have left an indelible scar on humanity. Their struggle for justice and repatriation has been marred by obstacles, false promises, and political manoeuvring, prolonging their agony and preventing a resolution to this humanitarian crisis.
The Rohingya people, who have faced systemic discrimination and persecution in Myanmar for decades, have been denied basic human rights and subjected to propagandistic campaigns that label them as foreigners and potential threats to the country’s stability. The 1982 constitution stripped them of their citizenship and rendered them stateless, effectively erasing their identity and denying them access to education, employment, and freedom of movement.
Despite international calls for their repatriation and restoration of their rights, the Myanmar government has shown little genuine commitment to resolving the crisis. Instead, they have engaged in a deceptive repatriation process aimed at evading international scrutiny and appeasing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The construction of government buildings and settlements on Rohingya land, as well as the destruction of their villages, further reveal the government’s ulterior motives and lack of sincerity.
Despite international calls for their repatriation and restoration of their rights, the Myanmar government has shown little genuine commitment to resolving the crisis. Instead, they have engaged in a deceptive repatriation process aimed at evading international scrutiny and appeasing the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Myanmar military junta has played a central role in perpetuating the suffering of the Rohingya people. Their brutal campaign of violence in 2017, characterised by mass killings, rape and arson, resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. The military’s continued presence in the Rakhine state and their refusal to create a safe environment for the Rohingya undermine any prospects of a meaningful repatriation process.
China’s involvement in the repatriation process has raised suspicions and concerns among the Rohingya population. China, known for its controversial policies towards its own Muslim minority, the Uyghurs, has consistently used its veto power to prevent international resolutions on the Rohingya refugee crisis. This has fuelled speculations that China’s engagement in the repatriation process is driven by political motivations, rather than a genuine concern for the welfare of the Rohingya people.
The lack of trust and safety in the Arakan region, where the Rohingya would potentially be repatriated, adds another layer of complexity to the crisis. The region is currently under the control of the Arakan Army (AA), an armed group seeking to establish a Rakhine nation. The AA’s opposition to recognising the Rohingya as an ethnic group and their mistreatment of the Rohingya population have created an environment of fear and uncertainty. The Rohingya people find themselves caught between the oppressive policies of both the AA and the Myanmar military junta, facing restrictions on their freedom of movement, livelihoods, and even their identity.
The AA’s involvement in drug trafficking exacerbates the plight of the Rohingya community. Forced to serve as porters and subjected to punishment if they fail to comply, the Rohingya are trapped in a cycle of exploitation and abuse. The AA’s oppressive tax system further burdens the already impoverished Rohingya population, making their daily lives even more challenging.
While some individuals hope that compliance with the AA’s rules may lead to a more inclusive and tolerant Arakan, the overall sentiment remains one of fear and scepticism. The AA’s disregard for the Rohingya’s ethnic identity and their mistreatment of the population undermine any prospects for peaceful coexistence.
In light of these challenges, it is evident that the repatriation process is fraught with obstacles and uncertainties. The Rohingya people, already traumatised by decades of persecution, fear that returning to Myanmar under the current circumstances would subject them to further violence and oppression. The international community must prioritise the safety and well-being of the Rohingya people, ensuring that any repatriation efforts are accompanied by guarantees of their rights, security, and justice.
San Thai Shin is a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh who is a community-based researcher and freelance journalist.