Rohingya Crisis: Bangladesh is the “Protector,” Not the Perpetrator

Recently, a report titled “Rohingya face ‘second genocide’ as violence surges in Bangladesh refugee camps” appeared in the renowned Hong Kong-based media South China Moring Post (SCMP) on October 15, 2023. A day after the publication, the title was changed, but the question remains about the authenticity and standards of the prominent newspaper. 

The writer of the article occasionally writes about the Rohingya crisis, but most often, it seems that she is targeting the state authority of Bangladesh rather than finding out the root causes and durable solutions to the problem, which is really unfortunate. While the article highlights the challenges and violence faced by the Rohingya, it is essential to consider the whole situation to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation.

 A Complex Security Situation

The camps are indeed facing significant security challenges, but it’s important to recognize that these issues are not solely the result of actions by Bangladeshi authorities. About 40,000 to 70,000 people per square kilometer are living in the 34 Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, which is more than 40 times the average population density of Bangladesh. The security situation in camps cannot be imagined sitting abroad in a fine-tuned building. Maintaining this vast population of 1.2 million Rohingyas for the last six years is a mammoth task.

Added to that, the presence of various armed groups and factions within the Rohingya community has contributed to the lawlessness and insecurity in the camps. Infighting between groups like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization has led to violent clashes, abductions, and killings. To address this, it’s crucial to engage with the Rohingya community itself to find a comprehensive solution that involves both security measures and community initiatives.

Bangladesh’s Burden

While the Rohingya fled Myanmar to escape persecution, it’s worth acknowledging the tremendous burden Bangladesh has undertaken by providing shelter to the “most persecuted” people around the world. The article of SCMP suggests that Bangladesh views the Rohingya as a burden, but it is essential to understand the significant strain this influx has placed on the country’s resources and infrastructure. Repatriation, as advocated by Bangladesh, may indeed be a challenging solution, but it reflects the country’s limited capacity to accommodate such a vast refugee population.

The economic, security, social and environmental cost of Rohingya crisis is beggar description. Apart from humanitarian costs, Bangladesh is spending a lot of its workforce to manage the Rohingya refugees. The nation has already invested BDT 1 billion (more than US 90 million) in the construction of a basic barbed-wire fence and US $300 million to set up Bhasan Char for the temporary relocation of one lakh Rohingyas living in the Cox’s Bazar camps. 

The Rohingya people are becoming heavily involved in human trafficking, fanaticism, drug trafficking, and violence, which is causing discontent in the area. According to reports, crimes including extortion by Rohingya gangs in the camps and power struggles between various Rohingya groups have increased recently, as demonstrated by the murders of Mohib Ullah and other Majhis (Rohingya leaders).

There has also been a rise in recent years in the number of Rohingyas leaving the camps and embarking on perilous sea voyages to Malaysia or Indonesia. Rights organizations claim that the number of persons leaving the camps has substantially grown, going from 500 last year to an estimated 2,400 this year. The UN claims that the probable sinking of a boat in recent weeks carrying 180 Rohingya Muslims might make 2022 one of the deadliest years in almost a decade.

Conflict between the refugee community and the host community could result from growing societal unrest. The hospitable neighborhood expressed concern for the numerous displaced Rohingya and offered their help in locating refuge in Cox’s Bazar. The pro-hostile posture of the host community has, nevertheless, considerably diminished over time.  The arrival of over a million Rohingya refugees in Ukhiya and Teknaf was a big demographic “shock” for the locals of the host community. Social unrest, violence, anger, social breakdown, and economic instability are commonly linked to the worsening situation of Rohingyas.

Of the total 2,092,016 acres of forest area, 3,500 acres have already been lost as a result of the Rohingya population concentration in Cox’s Bazar. It equates to a loss of 1.67 percent of Cox’s Bazar’s total forest area. The FDMNs also use a significant amount of firewood from the forests to suit their needs for cooking fuel. Deforestation is ultimately causing a biodiversity imbalance, frequent landslides, groundwater contamination, and depletion. 

Challenges of Humanitarian Aid

The reduction of monthly food rations from US12 dollar to US8 dollar for the Rohingyas is undoubtedly a concerning issue. However, it’s important to recognize the limitations faced by humanitarian agencies in providing assistance to a population of this size. Bangladesh and international organizations have been providing essential aid, but the sheer scale of the crisis presents logistical and financial challenges. Engaging in a constructive dialogue and cooperation with these agencies is essential to ensure that the refugees’ needs are met effectively.

The article points to the role of the international community in holding Bangladesh accountable for the conditions in the camps. While this is a valid concern, it’s important to emphasize that the resolution of the Rohingya crisis requires a collective effort. The international community should work collaboratively with Bangladesh to address the multifaceted challenges, rather than solely placing blame on one party.

The situation in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh is undoubtedly complex and fraught with challenges. While the article highlights the plight of the Rohingya and the need for their protection and justice, it’s essential to consider the broader context. The multifaceted issues within the camps, the burden on Bangladesh, the challenges of humanitarian aid, and the role of the international community all contribute to the complexity of this crisis. Calling this crisis, a “second genocide” is misleading because it sounds like Bangladeshis are targeting and killing Rohingyas. The world should remember that Bangladesh appears as a protector, not perpetrator.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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