Why Rohingyas continue to dominate headlines

Security analysts reckon that most of the Rohingya refugees are vulnerable to radicalisation.

 |  4-minute read |   12-12-2018
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The Rohingya issue refuses to die and their migration to safer havens from Myanmar continues unabated in a set pattern to escape the military onslaught of the Myanmar state. It’s more than a year now when the Rohingyas started fleeing from Myanmar after abandoning their homes following a massive crackdown on them.

While nearly seven million Rohingyas are already sheltered in neighbouring Bangladesh, many are still leaving for elsewhere. It all began on August 25, 2017, when a massive attack by the military annihilating the Rohingyas forced them to flee. The trend continues. A large section of security analysts watching the Rohingya challenge reckon that most of the refugees are vulnerable to radicalisation, posing a danger to peace in the region.

Here, however, there is a considerable section of pacifists who contest the allegations of radicalisation. They too have a point. From the humanitarian point of view, their argument is that homeless and starved, the Rohingyas are unlikely to accept indoctrination.

rohingya-bang-copy_121118123102.jpgNearly seven million Rohingyas are already sheltered in Bangladesh. (Photo: Reuters)

This said, experts also hold a view that in the Rakhine state of Myanmar itself, there were serious attempts by Pakistani inspired terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) to radicalise the impoverished Rohingyas fraught with perils caused by the Myanmar army to decimate.

Some reliable inputs indicated that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) jumped into the muddied waters to exploit and in a suspected collaboration with the LeT, started radicalising the fleeing refugees. The military commander of ARSA, Hafiz Tohar, came to notice in actively indoctrinating many Rohingyas or even giving them military training.

Bangladeshi authorities had also said that a large number of Rohingya refugees remain vulnerable to indoctrination. In India too, there are a considerable number of Rohingyas amid protests by many that they are a great risk to national security –  through many have gone back to Myanmar through the borders of the Indian northeast.

Against the backdrop of what has been described above, a new development has recently surfaced amid most credible reports that Myanmar has very recently intercepted a boat carrying 93 Rohingya Muslims trying to escape from displacement camps in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state to reach Malaysia. Rohingyas’ taking refuge to Malaysia now and that too in considerable number.

rohingya2-copy_121118123753.jpgIn 2016, around 106 Rohingyas attempted to reach Malaysia escaping from a commercial hub in Yangon. (Photo: Reuters)

This new pattern of flight to Malaysia assumes significance as Malaysia has a Prime Minister in Mahathir Mohamed who, hitherto, has been known to be a moderate Muslim and never came to light fostering Islamic fundamentalism. But fresh appraisal was made in his dramatic shift in approach when he shelters hate preacher and Islamic activist, Dr Zakir Naik, relocating him from Saudi Arabia, granting him permanent residency and spurning repeated Indian requests to extradite him.

It would be interesting to see what stance Mahathir adopts to deal with the Rohingyas if at all they reach Malaysian soil. It may be recalled that earlier in November 2016, around 106 Rohingyas attempted to reach Malaysia escaping from a commercial hub in Yangon.

It’s equally intriguing to see that while on one hand, Myanmar is encouraging Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh but on their attempts to flee to Malaysia, and on the other, authorities are trying to stop them from moving to Malaysia?

In an unrelated development, the Myanmar military and especially its 33rd Light Infantry Division (LID) , known for its brutality, have started targeting another ethnic group, the Kachins, in a recent military drive.

aang-copy_121118124139.jpgWill Aung San Suu Kyi finally speak up for the Rohingyas? (Photo: Reuters)

Aung San Suu Kyi has been internationally criticised for her open support to the military for carrying out its adventurist and repressive actions dividing Buddhist and Muslim communities and even recognition accorded to her by many international organisations are being divested from her like the Amnesty International.

She, however, continues to be relentless in her approach. Against this background, Rohingyas, either way, remain vulnerable for easy exploitation. From the military, as well as from the general Myanmarese population.

Also read: No Rohingya is a refugee by choice. India must learn from history — and Vajpayee

Writer

Shantanu Mukharji Shantanu Mukharji @shantanu2818

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

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