Interviews

Rtd. Major General Md Abdur Rashid, Executive Director, Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies (ICLDS)

THE SECURITY CONCERNS OF A MASS EXODUS
Rohingya is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world; within two months of time, more than 600,000 people have come, and it is difficult to provide, shelter, food, water, health, and sanitation for them. It is managed by the Bangladesh government as well as international communities and the Bangladesh army is doing the local management. While we are providing basic amenities for the Rohingyas, it seems that along with the threat of terrorism. There is an emanating threat of arms and drug smuggling; another potential danger that comes with housing them is that it puts pressure on the community as the number of Rohingyas is three times higher than the local population. This threat affects local cultivation, culture, environment, and education. Human trafficking of children and girls is another pressing issue that comes into view given their arrival. In addition to that, there are a lot of local people who are espousing extremist ideologies and trying to establish contact with the refugees in order to lure them into the global violent extremism. This act will not only destabilize Bangladesh but also lead to a regional chaos with neighboring countries like India, China as well as Thailand. As a whole, we’re up against a Jihadi threat; besides for economic pressure, if you combine the rest, there’s indeed a significant threat to security. 

“There is an emanating threat of arms and drug smuggling; another potential danger that comes with housing them is that it puts pressure on the local population as the number of Rohingyas is three times higher than the community.”

Refugees of Today, Residents of Tomorrow?
Since they’ve been persecuted by the military and ousted from their land, Bangladesh is not much of attraction for them as they are only availing the bare necessities here. We have discussed the matter with more than thousand of Rohingyas, and from there we gathered that if they get a guaranteed security of life and citizen’s right in Myanmar, they are willing to return to their homes. So I believe that they will go back unless they are offered new provisions. I rule out the possibility of them staying back here as international communities are working very hard to rescue these people. It requires a global consensus on the modalities of their safe return, Myanmar is under tremendous international pressure to take them back. However, if they are to stay, new provisions such as health, accommodation, and education needs to be factored along with the integration with the local people.

Illegal Activities amongst an Influx
Law and order are controlled through Ministry of Home Affairs by Bangladesh Police, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and other law enforcing agencies. I’ve noticed that Bangladesh has developed specific strategies to keep the Rohingyas separated from the locals and they have a definite area for them. Also, additional police posts and check-posts have been created so that they cannot get out and merge with the local people. Three months have passed, and the operations have been commendable so far; we’ve encountered some small isolated cases of drug and weapon smuggling, but those have not gone to the extent of causing mayhem. If strong surveillance and monitoring are maintained continuously, we can reduce the threats and keep it manageable.

Security Measure: Maintaining Safety at the Border
The security measures at the border are under the supervision of BGB; for humanitarian reasons, a cross-border movement is somewhat allowed. So people are coming into the country and eager to maintain backward linkage. However, every action near the border needs to be monitored thoroughly. We haven’t faced any danger so far, but there’s no room for complacency right now. Being proactive and vigilant during these times at the border is vital, and this can only be done if sufficient manpower is employed there. Only then can border activities be monitored more efficiently.

A Rift in Economic Development
Yes, there is some level of mistrust between the two countries; however, policy-wise, Bangladesh is still maintaining a cordial relationship with Myanmar to mitigate the crisis peacefully. They have resentments on the issue of Rohingyas, but the economic relationship has not been severed from either end. Border trade has been affected, but import, export, and trade between the two countries have not been stopped. So neither country is involving their military to produce tensions along the borders. In these circumstances, China is playing an active role to mediate the crisis. In fact, in the total global scenario, it has been perceived that it is China who can better persuade and influence the decisions of Myanmar.

Technology, the Solution to Border Management?
Border management requires cooperation from both sides; Bangladesh and India were successful in developing an effective mechanism for border management. But we could not develop such measures for our Eastern borders with Myanmar. Bangladesh has taken a lot of diplomatic initiatives, but Myanmar response was sluggish. It is under consideration to have a joint border management. When Rohingya crisis finds a solution, the border management agreement will also find its place along with that. 

Rohingya families escaping the persecution of the Rakhine State 

The present circumstances, and matters of concern behind the largest humanitarian crisis in recent times

Earlier this year in August, the world had witnessed a ‘systematic’ process of driving out hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from their homestead in the Northern Rakhine state of Myanmar following the simultaneous attack on Myanmar security outposts by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). According to the Mission report of OHCHR Rapid Mission to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh (13-24 September 2017), the destruction of Rohingya villages in the Rakhine state along with other serious human rights violations depicts that it was a state patronized deliberately planned violence committed in the aftermath of 25 August attacks.

Chief of the UN Human Rights has blatantly termed it as “Textbook ethnic cleansing.” It’s now, December and the violence against the Rohingyas in Rakhine have not yet ceased, causing an alarming number of Rohingyas to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. It was within six weeks that Bangladesh experienced an influx of half a million Rohingyas, more than half of them are children. With the arrival of this new entity into an already densely populated country of one hundred and sixty-three million people, much of its resources are now being diverted for the Rohingyas.
Our country has extended a helping hand towards their plight, it leaves us to ponder whether this humanitarian act will lead to a security threat within Bangladesh. Addressing this issue, ICE Business Times converses with Retired Major General Md Abdur Rashid, Executive Director, Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies (ICLDS) to know whether or not the relief operations in facilitating Rohingya refugees would pose any specific threats to our nation.

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