In Bangladesh, which is strongly fighting its own relentless battle against Islamic extremists at all fronts, armed Rohingyas have been known to be involved in organised attacks against Buddhist holy sites at Chittagong and nearby areas. The presence of over 300,000 or so of such people in neighbouring Bangladesh , a section of whom have switched to the Jihadist philosophy, also poses a long term security problem for India’s Northeast and eastern States, according to security analysts.

On their part, its fellow ASEAN members have been strongly urging upon Myanmar to settle the Rohingya issue, along with Bangladesh, the UN, International HR groups and Relief agencies. Many feel that India should also join their efforts to make Myanmar more conscious of its own domestic problems and their international ramifications.

While Bangladesh Government looks forward to Myanmar authorities taking back thousands of stranded Rohingya refugees following bilateral talks, international observers remain skeptical of Naypitaw’s intentions.

Recently, Mr. U Kyan Tin, representing the Myanmar Government met Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mr, A.H .Mahmood Ali in Dhaka to discuss the situation arising out of the latest influx of Rohingyas fleeing from West Rakhine province. In two phases, nearly 100,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed over to Bangladesh, the influx increasing significantly after the Myanmar army’s crackdown on October 8 last year. His visit to Dhaka followed an instruction from the state Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

An estimated 86 people were killed during the army’ operations, which followed the death of eight Myanmar soldiers during an armed attack by suspected Rohingyas. Scores of houses were burnt, and many women, children and old people killed during the army reprisals, causing yet another large scale Rohingya influx to Bangladesh and other areas.

Despite international concern and diplomatic efforts to stop the violence, Myanmar authorities did not prove responsive. Ms Suu Kyi on her part saw the army operations only as part of ‘a counter-insurgency operation.’

Along with Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, Bangladesh also seals its borders to prevent more Rohingyas from coming in. Usually they provide minimum medical and other facilities to the escapees before heading off their boats towards the open seas.

According to media reports, Mr. Ali reiterated Bangladesh’s familiar stance that Myanmar must accept responsibility for and repatriate not only the nearly 100,000 people who had crossed over recently but all of the nearly 300,000 people still staying in make shift camps, having escaped from Rakhine earlier.

Mr. Tin said Myanmar would accept people ‘ after proper verification’. This meant that Naypitaw would accept only those it regarded as its citizens. While Bangladesh Government circles expressed their confidence that Myanmar authorities now seemed more serious and meant business, the views of the latter were not reported in the media.

Past experience of Myanmar’s position and action on the long awaited repatriation to Rakhine of the Rohingyas does not inspire much confidence. The Rohingya influx to Bangladesh as a reaction to recurrent spells of officially sponsored violence targeting the community has been continuing since 1991. Between 1991 and 2005, according to available reports, at least 200,000 Rohingyas had made their way to Bangladesh. Only a handful were recognised as refugees who fulfilled UN norms as to their status, but most were put up in unofficial camps at Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar areas, in unfavourable conditions. Over the years, thousands of boat people who could not make their way to the neighbouring countries perished during storms ,or died of starvation in the high seas.

Sustained international diplomatic pressure and Bangladesh’s efforts forced Myanmar authorities to begin bilateral talks on the issue in 2014. Then too, Myanmar agreed to accept the displaced people after verification. But only 2415 were accepted and taken back, leaving thousands more as stranded and hopeless as before.

And in 2015, the confusion over the status of Rohingyas was further confounded by the first Myanmar census in 30 years. The Rohingyas were not listed among 130-off ethnic tribes of Myanmar. If at all, they could be listed only as ‘Bangalis’ which automatically made them stateless encroachers. If such rules also govern Myanmar’s ’ current citizen ‘verification’ procedures, Dhaka will not have much to look forward to.

Their stateless, unofficial status made it doubly difficult for Bangladesh to secure proper humanitarian aid for the Rohingyas whom the Myanmar authorities treat as Bengali-speaking Bangladeshis. Dhaka does not accept this, arguing that the Rohingyas have been settled in Myanmar for generations, numbering some 1.3 million out of a population of over 3 million in Rakhine province. It was therefore very much Myanmar’s responsibility to handle simmering tensions between the majority Buddhists and minority Muslim Rohingyas on its own territory and work out a settlement. (IPA Service)