Rohingya, not an officially avowed ethnic group in Myanmar, has now become a habitant in Bangladesh. They are forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals (FDMNs) from the Military Junta of Myanmar. The influx of Rohingya is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. It began in 1973–74 and continued in 2016 at a different number. But both in terms of quality and quantity, the exodus of 2017 was entirely different. Bangladesh opened its border because of its humanitarian perspective. Bangladesh was lauded by the international community, and they provided enough economic facilitation to manage the large portion of Rohingya in Bangladesh. Though Bangladesh always goes about the repatriation process through its excellent diplomatic efforts, Bangladesh cannot completely fulfil the process because of the major powers’ interests in the Rakhine state, the Russia-Ukraine War effect, and the less importance of the issue to the international community. In addition, the Rohingya population has already created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh’s southeast region, which is most prominent for Bangladesh’s port diplomacy and its Blue Ocean economy. The political power of the military junta has made the situation more arduous for Bangladesh to seek the prospect of the repatriation process. The paramount motive of this paper is to articulate ‘The Rohingya Crisis and the Future Prospects of Repatriation.’
Present situations of Rohingya’s in Bangladesh:
Bangladesh, through international donors and humanitarian actors, continuously gives food, shelter, education, and sanitation to the Rohingya. The Rohingya issue has now become a great security concern for Bangladesh. Rohingya often make fake passports by using Bangladeshi citizen names and go to foreign countries through sea boats by human traffickers. They are involved in the drug business, killings, crime, etc. They are now the most vulnerable people in Bangladesh, including in politics, socio-economics, and climate change. Sometimes, a massive fire breaks out in the Rohingya’s camps. According to the Bangladesh Defense Ministry report, between January 2021 and December 2022, 222 fire incidents took place. They also get engaged in conflict among them. Moreover, they become a great menace for the local people in Cox’s Bazar. Their population growth rate is increasing alarmingly. They protested in their camps to return to Myanmar in 2023. The World Food Program cut monthly food distribution to $8 from $10.
Present conditions in Rakhine state:
The current political situation in Rakhine State is not so good. Rohingya people staying in Rakhine State continuously face intense restrictions on their freedom of movement, marginalization, trafficking, torture, and so on. Conflict between the Rohingya Muslim and Rakhine Buddhist communities is still ongoing. The military junta and the Arakan Army have been on ceasefire since November. Now, Arakan is less stable to begin the repatriation process. After the military coup in 2021, Myanmar Security Forces arrested thousands of Rohingya women, men, and children for unauthorized travel and imposed restrictions on new movements in Rohingya camps and villages. Consequently, water scarcity and food shortages become acute. According to UNHCR’s evaluation, the situation in Rakhine State is not favorable for the sustainable return of the Rohingya people.
The Arakan army, the most powerful ethnic armed organization, prolonged their influence and altered public opinion. Their endeavors help fragment the state’s political elite. In sum, the Rakhine state is more likely to experience another period of political and military uprising. Rakhine State is currently the center of great power interests.
Repatriation prospect of Rohingya’s:
In other words, the Bangladeshi government always tries to encourage Rohingya repatriation by using prudent diplomacy. Bangladesh wants to resolve the Rohingya repatriation through peaceful means of negotiations with the help of the international community and the major powers’ contribution (Min, 2022). The Russia-Ukraine war has altered the geopolitical dimensions of international politics as well as Rohingya repatriation. In essence, the Rohingya repatriation process is now a less significant effort. Hence, depression, frustration, and anxiety have become common in people.
Bangladesh, not a signatory state to any international refugee convention, has no accountability in this matter. If Rohingya people do not repatriate, Bangladesh will face uncountable obstacles in the country. Indetermination and anarchy will expand in the shelter camps. Drug and arms smuggling and anti-social activities will increase, which will lead Bangladesh to more vulnerable socio-economic conditions. It will create numerous concerns for Bangladesh’s sovereignty. As the United Nations has already undermined food aid, food shortages will help to create conflict and chaos in Rohingya camps. The ecosystem, biodiversity, and natural disasters will be grasped to a greater extent. Local people are now lying in fear. Rohingya children will face malnutrition and lose psychological attachment to their homeland, Myanmar.
The mediation of China about the repatriation process has extended the hesitation and concerns among the Rohingya people because China is considered for its disputed policies with the Muslim minority, the Uyghur. Moreover, China’s mediation in the repatriation process is driven by geopolitical and national interests and aspirations (Shin, 2023). Bangladesh has already taken “A Pilot Repatriation Initiative” as its first attempt to repatriate Rohingyas.
As the struggle of the Rohingya people has been marked by interruptions, fake commitments, injustice, displacement, and violence, the future of repatriation is precarious.
The challenges of Rohingya Repatriation:
Bangladesh has already proven its shrewd diplomacy to repatriate Rohingya people. International communities and organizations from various countries in the world lauded Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her humanity. There are a lot of challenges for Rohingya repatriation.
In my perspective, as China is a close friend of both Bangladesh and Myanmar, Bangladesh should attract China by unveiling its potential to repatriate Rohingya more. China should also increase its mediation role in the world. A sustainable resolution must be ensured for Rohingya repatriation. Bangladesh must keep pressuring China as well as international communities for their constant involvement so that Filipino aspirations can perish in the bud. The international community must emphasize the welfare and safety of the Rohingya population with the promise of their dignity, security, justice, and rights. Bangladesh’s intrinsic value has expanded substantially, including the geo-strategic importance of the Bay of Bengal, its natural resources (both land and seabed), tourism, and unprecedented economic advancement. Bangladesh can be more attracted by using its intrinsic value and captivating culture to encourage the world’s major powers to repatriate Rohingya. Bangladesh can propose that developed countries such as Canada, the U.S.A., and the U.K. Take thousands of Rohingya people by representing their innovative capabilities, latent talents, and morality. Bangladesh’s government should be given more extraordinary diplomacy to dispatch ambassadors to various countries to appease them by presenting the plight, sorrowfulness, and uncertainties of the future of the Rohingya population. Bangladesh should also maximize its close affinity with ASEAN, D-8, and BIMSTEC and put pressure on the military junta to return their people. Bangladesh’s government should extend its soft power and economic and public diplomacy to repatriate Rohingya. Bangladesh can exchange Rohingya people with other countries through Track diplomacy. As Bangladesh has declared its Look Africa Policy, Bangladesh can use Rohingyas for contract Farming in African countries because of its congenial environment. Moreover, Bangladesh can be used as a tool for Latin American countries to exchange Rohingya. Bangladesh is about to join BRICS in August 2023. Bangladesh can be used by BRICS countries to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar.
The Rohingya crisis has now become an international concern for many countries, including Bangladesh. It has now become a scapegoat for Bangladesh’s long-term security concerns. Bangladesh is continuously working with the repatriation process in its hearts and minds. In summation, their future will remain in darkness.
Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka
4th year, 7th semester