Since August this year, more than a million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have fled over the border into Bangladesh. The exodus was triggered by a military crackdown in the west of the country by the Myanmar government. Last month, the Bangladesh authorities set up one of the largest refugee camps in the world, hosting more than 600,000 people. Nazmul Hassan feels his country is trapped in this situation.
‘The background to this conflict is two-sided. Firstly, the Myanmar authorities, who are mainly Buddhists, see the Rohingya as a different ethnic group that does not belong to their nation. For that reason, the Rohingya people never got full Myanmar citizenship. Secondly, the Myanmar government plans to create an economic zone in their area, so their settlements are a hindrance to that plan. This led the Myanmar army to bomb part of the area, and non-official groups to burn down houses. The UN Security Council has been unable to intervene, because of the veto power of China and Russia. China has plans for large-scale investment in the region and deep sea projects off the coast are already up and running.
Of course, I agree with many people in Bangladesh that we should host these refugees initially. That is not necessarily because we are also mostly Muslim, but because just from a moral point of view, accepting those refugees is imperative. However, the hard reality is that Bangladesh is a densely populated country that is dealing with some poverty issues already. In the long term, it is practically impossible to host so many people. The current refugee camps are temporary and very crowded. Human trafficking and terrorist ideologies have already started to take hold. If the camps remain like this, I expect serious problems within six months. In order for a long-term solution to come in sight, there should at least be enough international support.’