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Myanmar authorities to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis

The resolution asked the Myanmar authorities to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis. Jointly tabled by the member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union (EU), the resolution maintained a strong focus on the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and the current atrocities, torture, arbitrary arrests and violation of human rights in Myanmar since the military takeover in February 2021. Apart from the OIC and EU, the resolution received significant cross-regional support from the US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan and the Republic of Korea, among others.

Since then, Bangladesh has given shelter to more than 700,000 Rohingyas. Including those who took refuge here on previous occasions of displacement, Bangladesh is now hosting well over 1.1 million of the displaced Myanmar nationals, providing them with humanitarian assistance, including medical care and attention during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

This generosity earned respect internationally for Bangladesh and its prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.

Meanwhile, multiple attempts to repatriate the Rohingyas to their homeland have all failed. Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the first repatriation deal in November 2017.

Given the new momentum and support at the international level, the Bangladesh government should kick-start the repatriation process directly with Myanmar or through a friendly third-party broker/negotiator to find a mutually acceptable solution.

The Rohingya crisis is increasingly becoming a security risk for Bangladesh and the region. What could the Bangladesh government do to facilitate the repatriation? As noted earlier, Bangladesh has already done a great deal. However, to find a way out of the present impasse, the government can seek help from the OIC, the EU, or any member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as a reliable, impartial and honest broker to jumpstart the negotiation. The newly appointed special envoy of the UN secretary-general on Myanmar can also facilitate the process.

Second, Min Aung Hlaing, head of the current military junta, oversaw the crimes against the Rohingyas, including the reported war crimes and crimes against persons of other minorities, in Myanmar. The army chief who reportedly orchestrated many criminal activities is now heading the Myanmar government. The post-coup tragedies, including killings, torture, imprisonment, sexual violence and rape, continue unabated till date, violating all international laws. The Rohingya crisis and the current oppressions of the mass people by the military are two sides of the same coin.

The UN and the international community must act to bring the perpetrators of the crimes against Rohingyas to justice, and ensure accountability for human rights violations. This is very critical to creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas. In sum, the UN resolution on Myanmar itself will not lead to the desired goals for orderly repatriation of the Rohingyas any time soon. It is time for Bangladesh and Myanmar to re-engage in bilateral talks to enable voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar.

Achieving this may not be easy, and be fraught with many hiccups and roadblocks. Bangladesh should now make the move to engage seriously with Myanmar to protect its own interest in the short and long runs.

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