Can US Help Solve Rohingya Refugee crisis between Myanmar and Bangladesh?

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By: Ishtiak Fardinis

On August 25, 2017, the Rohingyas living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state were forced to seek refuge in Bangladesh after suffering brutal torture. Following the incident, the US State Department expressed its concern over allegations of serious human rights abuses in Myanmar, including horrific attacks and the burning of villages in Rakhine State, and the US Embassy in Yangon called on the Myanmar authorities to allow humanitarian aid agencies access to Rakhine State for the distressed population. The then Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, expressed the apprehension of the US government at the news of the terrible cruelty and genocide against the Rohingya. Immediately after the incident, the US summoned the Myanmar ambassador to express concern over the crisis. Since then, the United States has stood by Bangladesh in dealing with the Rohingya crisis.

The United States seeks justice for the Rohingya and expects the safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya. The United States is working with the international community to ensure the safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya. The US called on Myanmar to take swift and strong action to hold those responsible for atrocities against the Rohingya accountable and call the Rohingya situation “horrendous”. The United States State Department called for an investigation into human rights violations in Myanmar based on the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requested Union Minister Tint Soe in Myanmar’s State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi’s office to take the necessary steps to hold everyone accountable, including Myanmar’s security forces, involved in these incidents.

As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the United States has been actively responding to the urgent needs of the Rohingya population in Myanmar and Bangladesh and allocated nearly $63 million in 2017. Later in May 2018, the US allocated another US$ 44 million, before which the US provided US$ 255 million in aid. After the United Nations announced that the Rohingya needed $920 million in 2019, the United States announced $60 million in aid for the Rohingya. The United States has provided financial assistance of 449 million dollars from 2017 to 2019 to deal with the Rohingya crisis. Of this, 406 million dollars were spent on the protection of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Since the beginning of the Rohingya crisis, the United States has been at the top with humanitarian aid to Bangladesh. At the beginning of the UN Joint Response Plan (JRP) for Bangladesh in 2019, the United States announced another 504 crore 19 lakh rupees. This fund has been used to meet the needs of the Rohingyas and compensate the losses of the local Bangladeshis in the camp area. Since the outbreak of violence in Rakhine, the United States has provided $4.6 million in aid to various programs inside Bangladesh. The United States considers the brutal torture carried out by the Myanmar army in Rakhine since August 2017 to be clear ethnic cleansing and human rights violations. In 2019, the United States imposed sanctions on four of Myanmar’s top military officials for alleged human rights abuses against the Rohingya in Rakhine. The US is the first country to take such action against top Myanmar military officials. Sanctions have been imposed on Myanmar Army Chief Min Aung Laing, Deputy Commander in Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than and Brigadier General Aung Aung for indiscriminate killings and violence in Rakhine State. This is the most severe step taken by the US on the Rohingya issue. The United States is working to continue international pressure on Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya. The United States, as the main donor, provided $550 million in humanitarian aid to the Rohingya in 2019. The United States praised the Bangladesh government’s generosity in addressing the Rohingya crisis and its continued efforts to ensure aid reaches the affected population. The United States calls on Myanmar to create an environment conducive to voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable repatriation for the Rohingya and to allow unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to those in need.

In 2020, the United States continued to play a leading role in providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya crisis, providing another $59 million in humanitarian assistance. Including this new funding, the total amount of humanitarian assistance provided after 2017 stands at 82 billion dollars. In 2021, the United States provided another $180 million in aid to the Rohingya. The humanitarian assistance of the United States for the Rohingya issue has reached 1.5 billion dollars. More than 1.2 billion dollars were allocated to various programs for the benefit of the nine million Rohingyas in Bangladesh and the affected quarter of five million local residents.

Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court after the military seized power in 2021. The United States is planning to take action against Myanmar’s army chief after the ICC’s ruling that he must take responsibility for mass atrocities committed by security forces in Myanmar. On March 21, 2022, the United States recognized the killing, torture and violence carried out by the Myanmar Army in Arakan State as genocide and crimes against humanity. Through this, the United States formally recognized the Myanmar military’s violence against the Rohingya as genocide and crimes against humanity.

Bangladesh urged the United States to influence ASEAN to persuade Myanmar to take back the Rohingya and to pressure Myanmar through ASEAN to stop the ongoing atrocities against its own people in Myanmar. Bangladesh has praised the US for providing 152 million dollars in JRP 2022. Since 2017, total grants under the six JRPs have reached $322.11 million, of which the United States has given $1.7 billion to the Rohingya, the highest of any single country. Since August 2017, the total amount of aid given by the United States to deal with the Rohingya crisis is 1.9 billion dollars. The United Nations is working to help the 1.1 million Rohingya in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. The Bangladesh government’s move to take part of the Rohingya to Bhasanchar to ease pressure on Cox’s Bazar was initially opposed by the United Nations. Later, the United Nations and Japan joined the project. In August 2022, the United States and Canada joined the Bhasanchar project after the United Nations and Japan. Currently more than 30 thousand Rohingya are living in Bhasanchar.

Bangladesh has repeatedly called on Western countries to give shelter to the Rohingyas. The United States is the first country to accept a portion of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh for resettlement in a third country. The US government is very pleased to undertake a resettlement program for high-risk Rohingya. In the first phase, the United States worked with a list of about 60 Rohingyas. On December 8, 24 Rohingyas left for the United States from Bangladesh. After the initial phase is completed, the US will take in more Rohingyas after verification. Every year the United States takes in a large number of Rohingyas, this number is in the thousands. Bangladesh has never received such a proposal from any other country before. It is expected that the international community will show sincerity in solving the Rohingya problem in Bangladesh through the announcement of the United States to rehabilitate the Rohingyas in the current situation and the world conscience will be awakened.

The United States stands in solidarity with other countries in the region that have sheltered the Rohingya, including Bangladesh. The United States has urged other donors to increase financial support for humanitarian operations and support for people at risk and affected by violence. The country is also working with the government of Bangladesh, the Rohingya and people inside Myanmar to find a solution to the crisis. The United States has taken the issue of partnering with Bangladesh to help the Rohingya seriously. US State Department Assistant Secretary Julieta Valls Noyes said that the United States has always stood by the needs of the Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees.

In September 2022, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on the United Nations to take concrete steps for sustainable Rohingya repatriation. He expressed deep concern over Rohingya repatriation as the international community’s attention gradually shifted to Myanmar’s new global and internal conflicts. When the Rohingya resettlement process of the United States begins, the importance of the Rohingya problem will be presented to the world anew. It needs to be established that the Rohingya problem is not just a problem of Bangladesh and Myanmar – it is humanitarian and global.

The United States has rehabilitated about 10,000 Rohingyas from Malaysia, Thailand and other countries and similarly wants to rehabilitate Rohingyas from Bangladesh. The United States has called on Myanmar authorities to politicize human rights to ensure peace in the region. The United States will continue its efforts with the international community to ensure justice and facilitate the conditions for the voluntary return of the Rohingya to Myanmar. The United States believes that implementing the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission in Rakhine State would benefit both the Rakhine and Rohingya communities. The United States advised the Myanmar authorities to implement the Commission’s recommendations. So far, there has been no credible indication that Myanmar’s ruling elite has made fundamental changes to its Rohingya policies.

The resolution of the Rohingya crisis is protracted and is currently increasing the security risk. In addition to providing humanitarian assistance to address this issue, the United States is working with the Myanmar government and locals to ensure the safe return of Rohingya to Myanmar, including sanctions against Myanmar military officials, calls for humanitarian access to Rakhine, and the safe return of Rohingya to Myanmar. The United States has imposed tough sanctions on Myanmar to force it to change its behavior, end violence and repatriate the Rohingya. The United States also supports efforts to bring perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide to justice and ensure justice for victims. A critical solution to the Rohingya crisis is their safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation to Myanmar. The United States is working with the international community to encourage concerted efforts to resolve this crisis. It is hoped that the Rohingya problem will soon see the light of hope as a result of the concerted efforts of the United States and the international community.

The writer is a journalist, columnist and author. [email protected]

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