MYANMAR/BANGLADESH: The Rohingya exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh, which became one of the worst refugee crises in recent times, hit its 5th-year mark on Thursday, August 25, as the Western powers including the US and European Union pledged to continue supporting the refugees’ in a bid to secure justice in the international courts over humanitarian crimes of ethnic cleansing and territorial displacement.
Bangladesh is currently hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees who have been compelled to flee from Myanmar over the decades amid fears of ethnic cleansing, including some 740,000 who crossed the border in 2017 after the Myanmar military launched a “clearance operation” against them after attacks by a rebel group. The situation for Rohingyas has worsened in Myanmar after a military takeover last year, and attempts to send them back have failed.
In March, the United States said that the continued oppression of the Rohingyas in Myanmar was a clear sign of genocide after authorities confirmed accounts of mass atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the minority Muslim community.
Rohingya Muslims who are mostly denied citizenship and other basic human rights, face the fatal repercussions of a systemic hate campaign against them, launched by a Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The irony is such, that the Buddhist community, so revered for its ideals of non-violence and peace, kills to attain peace, and becomes the hypocritical perpetrator of several death campaigns against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Bangladeshi officials have expressed intense frustration over two failed attempts at repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar since 2017, but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that return to their land is inevitable and the only solution to the refugee crisis.
On the eve of the anniversary, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said in a statement that his country wants the refugees to return to Myanmar safely.
“Bangladesh wants to ensure that the Rohingya can return home to safe conditions in Myanmar where they will no longer be persecuted and will finally receive citizenship,” he said.
“We urge the international community to work alongside us to provide support to the Rohingya people, by asserting pressure on Myanmar to stop the mass persecution and allow Rohingya safe repatriation to their homes,” Khan said.
The issue has gone to the international courts but the allegations of abuse and atrocities have been continually denied by Myanmar. But the global community is not satisfied.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken remarked on Wednesday that the US is committed to delivering justice to the Rohingyas who have tolerated immense suffering as a result of Myanmar’s “clearance operation”.
Moreover, Western powers including the EU nations, and Foreign Ministers of New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Norway, the UK and the US exerted their confidence in the UN fact-finding mission to uncover more evidence of the Burmese military’s crimes and human rights abuses, many of which amount to grave crimes under international law enforcement.
A joint statement issued by the international delegations of these countries stated, “We reiterate that Myanmar must comply with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures order.”
Elaine Pearson, Acting Asia Director at Human Rights Watch said, “Governments should mark the fifth anniversary of the devastating campaign against the Rohingya with a coordinated international strategy for accountability and justice that draws on Rohingya input”.
Bangladesh and Myanmar settled on a deal in November 2017, brokered by China, regarding the refugee repatriation issue. Bangladesh earlier this month sought China’s assistance to help repatriate Rohingya to Myanmar during a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.