Hasan Md. Shamsuddin:
Bangladesh has given humanitarian shelter to the Rohingyas who fled in the wake of brutal torture by the Myanmar army and is taking care of 1250,000 Rohingyas. In the last six years, the frustration among the Rohingyas is intensifying due to the lack of a suitable environment for safe and sustainable repatriation in Myanmar, resulting in various security concerns and unstable situations in the camps. Lack, unemployment and desperation are driving many of them astray, resulting in them getting involved in various illegal activities and violence. Bangladesh has nothing to do with any of these.
Bangladesh is steadily working to control this situation. Security officers were also killed while performing their duty to stop Rohingya drug trafficking and terrorist activities. Bangladesh has successfully communicated the Rohingya issue to the global arena and continues this initiative. A lot is being written about the Rohingya crisis in different parts of the world. In many cases, without finding the root cause of the problem and sustainable solutions, Bangladesh government is trying to belittle the contribution of Bangladesh by making unnecessary criticisms, leaving aside the appreciation of the humanitarian activities which is really unfortunate.
The Rohingya population is heavily involved in human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling, and violence, causing fear and discontent within the camps and among locals. Various types of crimes including extortion and power struggles by various terrorist groups have increased in the Rohingya camps. Rohingya leaders who are vocal in favor of repatriation are being killed and pressured with various threats.
Donors have reduced the monthly food ration for the Rohingya from $12 to $8 which is undoubtedly worrying. These cuts in money and food allocations have created new crises and increased crime rates, anxiety and frustration among the Rohingya. Socio-economic instability is increasing day by day in the camp due to reduction in allocation. Rohingyas are involved in various types of crimes to provide money. Due to the increase in terrorist activities in the camps, the officials and employees of the local and international NGOs engaged in the humanitarian services of the refugees are in fear. Controlling the situation in the camp is necessary to keep the ongoing humanitarian activities going.
Members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), Rohingya Salvation Organization (RSO) terrorist groups are creating terror among Rohingyas and local Bangladeshis in the camps. They don’t want to go back to Myanmar, to help them, Myanmar has given unlimited opportunities to smuggle yaba, drugs, weapons and other goods. Rohingyas are being targeted and killed whenever they get a chance so that they cannot organize and talk about their repatriation to Myanmar and their rights. These terrorists conduct weapons exercises to control drug smuggling and spread dominance. As a result, ordinary Rohingyas spend time in fear.
Law and order forces are working tirelessly to control crime inside the camp. There have been 2,309 cases against 17 types of crimes in the camps and 5,229 Rohingyas have been convicted. Apart from other crimes, Rohingyas are now involved in major crimes like contract killing. Illegal drug and yaba trafficking from Myanmar to other neighboring countries has increased alarmingly. This ongoing situation poses a security threat to the entire South Asian region.
These violent incidents are also happening due to the concentration of Rohingya population in the camps. More than 70,000 Rohingya live per square kilometer in the camp area, which is more than 40 times the average population density of Bangladesh. A large number of people living in a small area can naturally create various conflict situations. If the law enforcement forces conduct raids inside the camps to suppress terrorists, arrest and recover weapons in these places, many ordinary Rohingyas will also suffer due to overcrowding, which must always be taken into consideration.
To control terrorist activities, environmental degradation and reduce pressure on the shelter camps in Cox’s Bazar, the Bangladesh government has undertaken the resettlement of Rohingyas in Bhasanchar which is a far-sighted and timely move. So far 32 thousand 832 Rohingya have been shifted to Bhasanchar. There are plans to take a total of 100,000 Rohingya there. For the temporary resettlement of the Rohingya in Bhasanchar, the Government of Bangladesh has invested about 300 million US dollars in its own funds to build huge infrastructure and is continuing the relief program through negotiations with donor agencies.
There are plans to build more new infrastructure in Bhasanchar for the Rohingyas. Another 70,000 Rohingya need to be relocated to Bhasanchar, a move that is costly. The Government of Bangladesh has requested the assistance of friendly countries and international organizations to bear the cost of taking the Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasanchar. Bangladesh hopes that they will help bear this cost. To ensure the safety of the Rohingyas, the program of reducing the population density of the camp and sending them to Bhasanchar should be taken quickly, the international organizations should understand the importance of this initiative and they should quickly get involved in this program.
The economic, security, social and environmental costs of the Rohingya crisis are mounting day by day. In addition to spending on humanitarian activities, Bangladesh is spending a lot of manpower and money on managing the Rohingya. Out of total 20 lakh 92 thousand 16 acres of forest land in Cox’s Bazar, 3 thousand 500 acres have already been lost due to Rohingya population. Deforestation leads to biodiversity imbalance, frequent landslides, groundwater pollution and reduced availability. Bangladesh government has to spend more than 1 billion dollars every year for Rohingyas. The Government of Bangladesh will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to them but will not allow national security to be compromised.
More than 2,000 members of three APBN battalions are deployed to maintain law and order in the Rohingya camp. With the rate at which crime is increasing, it is not possible to control this large Rohingya population with a limited number of APBN members. If this crisis is prolonged it will gradually put pressure on regional security which is not desirable at all.
It is necessary to ensure the return of Rohingyas to Myanmar by building public opinion in favor of speedy repatriation. In addition to this, efforts should be continued to maintain regional security and stability with the cooperation of the international community and regional countries. Because of the Rohingyas, the country’s biggest tourist center, Cox’s Bazar and surrounding areas are under security threat. If the Rohingya stay in the same place for a long time, the entire hilly area including Cox’s Bazar will be threatened and this area will become a base of crime. If the Rohingyas are not sent back as soon as possible, the national security of Bangladesh will be threatened in the coming days.
Bangladesh is working sincerely and efficiently to deal with the Rohingya problem. There is no opportunity to downplay the actions taken by Bangladesh to deal with the crisis and while it will benefit no one, it will not solve the Rohingya problem, it requires positive and cooperative initiatives. A concerted effort is needed to resolve the Rohingya crisis. Therefore, to solve this crisis, everyone must work together with Bangladesh to face this multifaceted challenge without blaming any one party.
The world community should remember that Bangladesh has been successfully serving as a shelter for this oppressed people for more than six years. Bangladesh welcomes any party interested in solving the Rohingya problem, they can work on creating the right environment, they can increase assistance in addition to what Bangladesh is doing. Emphasis should be placed on who has the capacity to solve the Rohingya crisis and how to ensure it. Knowing how and from where the Rohingyas are being deprived of the opportunities, what steps can be taken for a permanent solution, who will take them and what kind of support is needed if they are to be taken, these should be taken into consideration on an urgent basis and appropriate solutions and activities should be ensured. .
Rohingya problem cannot be solved by criticizing Bangladesh. Therefore, if serious about solving this ongoing problem, all quarters must ensure that appropriate and effective steps are taken to solve the problem. Finally, it is hoped that this crisis will be resolved quickly.
Br J (Retd) Hasan Md Shamsuddin, NDC, AFWC, PSC, M.Phil.
Researcher on Myanmar and Rohingya.