Refugees more at risk than before
In recent weeks, we have watched with growing alarm as the civil war in Myanmar continued to intensify and spill over into our borders. There have been incidents of mortar shelling, indiscriminate aerial firing and airspace violations along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, a result of the breakdown of a ceasefire between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army. Over the past month, the landing of mortal shells within Bangladeshi territory sparked diplomatic protests, with the foreign ministry summoning the Myanmar ambassador to Bangladesh to lodge a strong protest for the third time in two weeks. Now, there are reports of fresh violence in Myanmar's Rakhine and southern Chin, triggering fears within the local population – especially the Rohingya – of once again being on the receiving end of the junta's military campaign against minority communities.
It is incomprehensible that other nations have not only failed to provide shelter to these refugees in the same way that Bangladesh has, but have also failed to hold Myanmar accountable in any way for the atrocities committed within its borders.
Almost two years into the Myanmar military's illegal takeover of power that ended all hopes of a democratic transition for the country, it is unacceptable that the international community has made so little effort to hold Myanmar's autocratic regime to account. And now, as before, it is Bangladesh that has to pay the price for this apathy. With over a million refugees already being hosted in the country, it is impossible for Bangladesh alone to bear this huge responsibility. Yet as fresh violence in Rakhine threatens to force more Rohingya families to leave their native land for safety, there is a deafening silence from neighbouring countries and allies on what solutions might be offered to these refugees when they are faced with such a crisis.
A recent report in this daily shared that there were already more refugees amassing near the Bangladesh border. This puts us in a very difficult position. While acknowledging that Bangladesh does not have the capacity for more refugees, we must also acknowledge that these refugees are in an even more difficult position – trapped between life and death, we have seen them risk everything to reach safer shores. Only last week, Myanmar authorities seized a boat with 65 Rohingya refugees and four traffickers off its southern coast. Of them, seven people had already died of hunger and thirst. In May, more than a dozen Rohingya individuals, including children, died under similar circumstances.
It is incomprehensible that other nations have not only failed to provide shelter to these refugees in the same way that Bangladesh has, but have also failed to hold Myanmar accountable in any way for the atrocities committed within its borders. This is despite the fact that its oppressive regime has continued to crack down on civilians, execute pro-democracy activists, and imprison political opponents. It is high time the international community came together for a final resolution on the issue of Myanmar and its treatment of its own nationals. They must take immediate steps to host refugees in their own countries and take the disproportionate pressure off Bangladesh's shoulders.