Dhaka seeks security support as crisis escalates
Rakhine violence spurs call for prompt action
Bangladesh wants to step up strategic security cooperation with Thailand in light of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the threat posed by trans-border crime, a senior diplomatic source from Bangladesh, which borders the troubled state, said yesterday. The source, who asked not to be named, said increased information sharing was needed due to a raft of problems emerging from Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and the broader region.
Cooperation may involve setting up a joint working group or task force, the source said.
Highlighting the threat, the source gave the example of an organised criminal group that sells drugs and traffics people from Bangladesh to Malaysia, then to Thailand.
The partnership could also include joint border inspections, the source said.
The two countries have been closing ranks recently. In July they resumed a series of meetings chaired by their respective foreign ministers after a 19-year lapse.
But the stronger calls for security cooperation have been prompted by the recent violence in Rakhine, a western coastal state that has seen an exodus of more than 120,000 Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority, pour over the border into Bangladesh seeking refugee status.
At Chulalongkorn University yesterday an academic forum titled “Understanding Rohingya: Security Issue or Humanitarian Crisis” was held to draw attention to their plight.
Srirapha Petcharameesree from the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University said the Asean bloc must find a peaceful way of resolving the issue through various existing frameworks.
“Asean should play an active role in addressing the root causes [of the crisis] in Myanmar,” she said.
“We saw Malaysia and Indonesia voice their concern that this is no longer an internal affair.
“Therefore, if Asean addresses the issue it would not be considered interference.”
She said it has become a regional affair given the “spill-over effect” to other countries.
Naruemon Thabchumpon, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said the bloc needs to work together to help the Rohingya before the crisis escalates.
“The easy way to solve this problem is to let the Rohingya go to Bangladesh and give Bangladesh aid and support,” Ms Naruemon said.
“However, this policy has limits as Bangladesh is struggling to accept refugees.”
She suggested Thailand should try to persuade Myanmar to admit humanitarian assistance and consider a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Ms Naruemon said dialogue between the two neighbours should be easier given the power the military have in both countries.
During the seminar, several academics criticised attempts to paint the Rohingya as Bengali, especially after Myanmar urged Bangkok to refer to the ethnic group in Rakhine state as hailing from Bengal instead of using the name Rohingya.