Narinjara News



“The Independent” from Bangladesh

9 July 2004



Rohingya issue


Sad plight of the impoverished people


The unexpected influx of about a quarter million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Arakan region in the early 1990s posed overwhelming problems for Bangladesh.  The government had very little resources and expertise to play host to such a huge number of impoverished farm people terroristed by Myanmar’s dreaded security forces. The only fault of those people was that they possessed no papers to prove their domicile in a land where their ancestors had lived for ages under different empires including British empires. Under British rule, Myanmar, then known as Burma, was open to migration from neighboring countries. Being close to the Chittagong region, many hard working Chittagong farmers had in those days moved into Arakan and contributed to turning the region into a land of plenty. All on sudden, by letting loose a reign of terror on them on grounds of nationality, the military regime of Myanmar drove them across the Naaf river into the southern region of Bangladesh with which it had no conflict of interest.


Providing shelter, food, clothes and security to a continuous flood of men, women and children proved most challenging for Bangladesh which itself was then heavily dependent on foreign aid to keep its economy afloat and social fabric intact. International assistance for the refugees was slow in coming and there was no hope of the isolationist Myanmar regime listening to counseling by the world community. In this situation Bangladesh had not option but to make efforts to open a door to dialogue. This paid dividends but not until Bangladesh told Yangon that it was becoming increasingly impossible for it to contain the angry youth force of the Rohingyas grabbing arms ready to flow from the Muslim countries to launch guerrilla warfare against the regime. Repatriation began but proceeded slowly and haltingly. 


Mutual understanding


Speaking at seminar in Dhaka on Tuesday, the law minister Barrister Moudus Ahmad said in handling the refugee issue Bangladesh had to abide by the internationals laws and conventions and all repatriation had to be voluntary. All but 20,000 refugees had already been repatriated under the supervision of the UNHCR although there are allegations that they were being denied their fundamental rights after their return. Now that there are exchanges of high-level visits between the two neighboring countries and avenues of bilateral and regional cooperation are opening it should possible for them to address the remaining Rohingya issues on the basis of mutual understanding and goodwill. This way, both countries stand to gain and lose. #