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.

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