Ro­hingya refugee crisis a ‘grave se­cu­rity risk’ ICG warns

The Jakarta Post - - AEAN 50 -

Pro­longed dis­place­ment of Ro­hingya refugees in squalid Bangladeshi camps poses a “grave se­cu­rity risk”, con­flict an­a­lysts ICG warned Thurs­day, rais­ing the spec­tre of mil­i­tants re­cruit­ing among the dis­placed and launch­ing cross-bor­der at­tacks on Myan­mar.

Raids by the Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army (ARSA) on Aug. 25 sparked the vi­cious Myan­mar army re­sponse which has forced more than 620,000 Ro­hingya to flee Rakhine state for Bangladesh.

ARSA “ap­pears de­ter­mined to re­group and re­main rel­e­vant” and may draw on des­per­ate Ro­hingya refugees lan­guish­ing in camps for fu­ture op­er­a­tions, the ICG In­ter­na­tional Crisis Group said in the re­port.

The group may “shift to cross­bor­der at­tacks” us­ing Bangladesh as a base for re­cruit­ment and train­ing, the study said, cau­tion­ing the risk of an ever-deep­en­ing cy­cle of vi­o­lence is all too real.

“Such at­tacks would have pro­foundly neg­a­tive con­se­quences,” strain­ing Myan­mar-Bangladesh re­la­tions and wors­en­ing con­tempt for the Ro­hingya “that would fur­ther di­min­ish prospects of an even­tual refugee re­turn”.

Global out­cry over the refugee crisis, one of the worst in re­cent his­tory, has trig­gered a hy­per-defensive re­sponse inside the coun­try, where anti-Ro­hingya at­ti­tudes have hard­ened since ARSA’s emer­gence.

Myan­mar does not rec­og­nize the Ro­hingya as a dis­tinct eth­nic group el­i­gi­ble for cit­i­zen­ship, in­stead call­ing them “Ben­gali”, sug­gest­ing they are il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

In an­other se­ri­ous loom­ing risk, ICG warned that Ro­hingya’s plight has be­come a “cause cele­bre of the Mus­lim world” with Al-Qaeda, Is­lamic State and other global jihadi groups call­ing for at­tacks on Myan­mar.

Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary has re­peat­edly used the ter­ror threat to jus­tify its cam­paign in north­ern Rakhine state.

ARSA has dis­tanced it­self from any wider global cause for ji­had, say­ing it is only fight­ing to pro­tect Ro­hingya rights.

In­ter­na­tional pres­sure is ratch­et­ing up on Myan­mar.

This week the UN rights chief said Myan­mar’s crack­down on the Ro­hingya showed pos­si­ble “el­e­ments of geno­cide”, as calls for the safe and sus­tain­able repa­tri­a­tion of refugees grows.

Myan­mar re­futes any wrong­do­ing say­ing it was forced into a defensive ac­tion by ARSA at­tacks.

It has agreed with Bangladesh to start repa­tri­a­tion of “el­i­gi­ble” refugees within a few months.

But there are wide­spread doubts over how many Ro­hingya can prove they are en­ti­tled to re­turn to Rakhine, or want to go back to ar­eas rid­dled with com­mu­nal mis­trust and where their vil­lages were razed.

China, a key strate­gic ally of Myan­mar, is pitch­ing it­self as an ar­biter in the crisis, and has re­peat­edly urged the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to take a soft­line on Myan­mar.

But pres­sure is mount­ing in the West — par­tic­u­larly Wash­ing­ton — to reim­pose tar­geted sanc­tions on Myan­mar mil­i­tary fig­ures.

Sanc­tions were slowly rolled back in re­cent years as re­ward for demo­cratic gains af­ter decades of out­right junta rule.

The ICG study said any fresh sanc­tions would back­fire by iso­lat­ing Myan­mar and cal­ci­fy­ing ha­tred to­ward the Ro­hingya.

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