Smart Economy


The Forgotten Genocide in Arakan

Abdul Mannan

 Published: 10:16, 23 June 2024

The Forgotten Genocide in Arakan

When the world is making all sorts of half-hearted moves to stop the ongoing Israeli genocide in Palestine another genocide in South East Asia, in Myanmar, keeps on getting from bad to worse with no end in sight. This genocide that began in the Arakan province of Myanmar around 2015 continues to accelerate unabated and currently it has turned highly chaotic while the world looks the other way around.

From the day  Myanmar plunged into a political chaos after its military overthrew an elected government in 1962 the country that once boasted of being    economically the most developed country in  South East now stands on the brink of a total collapse due its internal ethnic strife and a deepening  civil war. Currently the war seems to have reached the borders of Bangladesh across the Naf River in Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar. Unfortunately the western world that regularly preaches of doctrine of democracy and human rights not only refuses to acknowledge the genocide and chaos in Myanmar it also arms Myanmar military junta and tacitly supports their acts of genocide unleashed  by the military junta  and a section of the civilians on the unarmed people  of the country, notably the Rohingya Muslims, who have been inhabitants of Myanmar since the 17th. Century.

The current spate of genocide that started in Myanmar's Arakan Province in 2017 has now taken an ugly form. According to international sources the members of the Myanmar Junta and their accomplices are now beheading the members of the Rohingya community at  regular intervals. The country has now reached the peak of barbarism and inhumanity. The international body called the United Nations seems to have failed to stop the all sorts of rot world over, whether it is in Palestine or Myanmar. 

A few weeks back, Volker Turk, the spokesperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, requested Bangladesh and other neighboring countries to allow the newly displaced refugees from Arakan into their countries.  According to the United Nations estimate, approximately forty-five thousand refugees have gathered in the border area of Bangladesh in search of safe a shelter. Instead of forcing Myanmar to stop this genocide such an unreasonable call from the United Nations is unwarranted. Currently the Arakan Army, a heavily armed insurgent group that is fighting the Myanmar Junta for establishing a separate homeland  of their own has asked the remaining Rohingya population to vacate their homes before they launch a new attack on the Junta forces. Unfortunately the wretched Rohingya have  nowhere to go. 

Myanmar is a member state of the United Nations but the country has not only violated the laws of the United Nations, they have been getting away with ethnic cleansing and genocide for almost a decade. Now the Junta forces have virtually turned into another insurgent group instead of behaving like a regular disciplined force of a sovereign nation.  Whenever a resolution on the genocide in Myanmar is tabled in the UN Security Council, it is inevitably vetoed by some permanent members. Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize unfortunately has also become part of this genocide. Suu Kyi went to the International Criminal Court of Justice in Hague to defend the ongoing genocide in Myanmar and denied that any genocide is taking place on Arakan Muslims. In  a cruel irony of fate Suu Kyi is currently serving a long prison term handed over to her by the military junta.

In 2017, when a group of Buddhist monks in Myanmar started the  ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan province, the  Myanmar Junta rulers instead of taking any steps to stop this heinous crime which eventually turned into a genocide, they themselves became part of it. Bangladesh as an extraordinary gesture opened its borders and gave shelter to the thousands of fleeing Rohingya Muslims from Arakan. Except Bangladesh, no other country adjacent to Myanmar opened their borders so liberally. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina went there and personally consoled the distressed and assured them all possible humanitarian assistance.  The readers surely remembers the scene of the Bangladesh Army and BDR soldiers carrying the elderly refugees across the border on their shoulders to the temporary refugee camps inside Bangladesh. Bangladesh defense forces and the members of the law enforcing agencies were its best. This is contrary to the propaganda regularly made by some western media about the members of these forces.  

The number of Rohingya refugees who came in 2017 currently stands around 1.3 million.  Out of the 193 member countries of the United Nations, at least fourteen countries do not have a total of 1.3 million population. This means that a small densely populated country like Bangladesh has been sheltering the people of about fourteen countries within its own territory! When streams of Rohingya refugees began pouring into Bangladesh dignitaries from abroad including top officials of the United Nations rushed to Bangladesh to see for themselves the plight of the refugees. They returned to their own country expressing their sorrow but had nothing else to offer. Overnight the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar became an attractive tourist destination. Everyone patted the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on her back and said, 'Wow, you have done a great job.' You are the `Mother of Humanity’. No one said that `we are taking some refugees to our country. We also have abundant of  vacant land where they can be rehabilitated’.  However, many of these countries after the Second World War stood   by their Zionist brothers in Europe and with the active assistance of the United Nations transferred them to the Arabland of Palestine and sowed the seeds of perpetual discontent and unrest in the whole of the Arab World.  Hundreds of thousands of refugees sheltered in Teknaf, Kutupalong and Ukhia refugee camps in Cox's Bazar have already been shifted to the new shelter built with modern facilities at Bhashanchar in Noakhali with the help of Bangladesh Navy and Army with some assistance from international bodies but more from Bangladesh’s own source. The international community not only refuses to  remember this in the beginning they even discouraged such a rehabilitation crying foul.  

Some local and international NGOs are profiting by capitalizing on the refugees coming to Myanmar.  They collect a huge amount of money from the international community and whatever they collect first they set aside a part of the funds collected for themselves in the name of their maintenance then use the remaining fund for the refugees.   It is similar like the superpowers minting money by selling arms to warring nations instead of making any meaningful effort to stop the war. Palestine and Ukraine are examples in the recent times.

Earlier whenever the Rohingya refugees have had the opportunity to return to their country, the United Nations and most of the NGOs tried to prevent them from going back on the pretext of security. However if the United Nations were sincere, they could have said that they will ensure the safety of the returning refugees by deploying the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Arakan and in other parts of unrest. Without saying that they requested Bangladesh not to close its doors for these refugees. They do not realize that the support that could have been received from the international community for the protection of these refugees has now reduced a lot and   harbouring such a staggering number of refugees have become unbearable for a country like Bangladesh.

In the meantime the World Bank has approved a seven hundred million dollar loan for the Rohingya. Bangladesh has to take that loan as a pre-condition of another loan taken for Bangladesh's own needs. Will the United Nations ever pay off this debt?  Not necessarily. It will have to be borne by the people of Bangladesh.  If the refugees stay in Bangladesh, many parties will benefit. The loss will only be of Bangladesh and its people.  In the past few years, refugee camps have become sanctuaries for arms and drug smuggling. Human trafficking has been become rampant. Refugee camps have become safe haven for all kinds of unlawful activities. Hundreds of acres of land have been deforested adding to the climate vulnerability of Bangladesh. Due to the long presence of these refugees, various types of social unrest have been broiling in South Chittagong. A small country like Bangladesh has now to handle the responsibility which should have been the responsibility of the whole world. The peddlers of democracy and human rights are completely silent on this issue. Now they are busy with Palestine forgetting that another genocide has been going on for a long time in the country called Myanmar in South East Asia. Bangladesh should now clearly tell the United Nations and the international community that Bangladesh is unable to provide any further of assistance to this terrible humanitarian disaster. This is not a problem unique to Bangladesh. It is the responsibility of the international community to solve such problems. Bangladesh is not ready to take any responsibility anymore. May good sense prevail. 

Writer: Professor Abdul Mannan, Former Chairman, University Grants Commission of Bangladesh; Professor Emeritus, University of Science and Technology, Meghalaya, India and Currently Professor of Business, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.