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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh, the politics of their situation is more important than the human impact

Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh, the politics of their situation is more important than the human impact

In October of 2009, the government of Bangladesh received a report from its military officials detailing a credible threat of attack from Myanmar, they feared that St Martin’s island in the Bay of Bengal, a region increasingly important economically for hydrocarbons, would be attacked and captured by Myanmar, and called for the government to strengthen the defensive capability of the island which has a circumference of just 3 miles.
Now Myanmar has proposed that the sea border between the two countries should be re-drawn and moved closer to the island, a proposal that Bangladesh has opposed, and has asked for the support of India and the UN in this regard.
The island is an important tourist destination and has proven extremely lucrative for a number of Bangladesh-based cruise lines as well as for the locals on the islands itself. The number of visitors each year has increased significantly, and its surrounding waters have been found to contain rich deposits of hydrocarbons.
The island is important to Bangladesh then, and an unnamed government official told Bangladesh news media that “Bangladesh will now weigh the new proposal of Myanmar.”
This is in addition to reports by Bangladesh news media that the countries border guards have accused the Myanmar military of frequently crossing the border into Bangladesh and carrying out operations aimed at separatist groups seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
The situation between the two countries is tense then, so tense that the further accommodation of refugees from the military dictatorship cannot be tolerated. It has been found that refugees from a Muslim tribe called the Rohingyas, which is mercilessly persecuted in Myanmar, are now being persecuted in Bangladesh as well, although in a more indirect capacity.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an humanitarian group operating in Bangladesh has claimed that Rohingyas refugees have been forced into refugee camps close to the Myanmar border in Cox's Bazar, and are being forced to remain in these “open air prisons” while they slowly starve to death.
These people are not recognized by Myanmar as citizens, and are forced into a slave-like labour arrangement and are arbitrarily arrested and beaten, while Bangladesh does not recognize them as credible refugees. They therefore occupy a space that the philosopher Agamben might have called the space of the exception, they are not part of Myanmar or Bangladesh and so they are not within any legal framework and are not entitled to the benefits of citizenship, such as the protection of their human rights.
A report issued by Physcians for Humanitarian Rights said that the government of Bangladesh was “systematically rounding up, jailing or summarily expelling these unregistered refugees across the Myanmar border in flagrant violation of the country's human rights obligations”.
Human rights are touted as inalienable, but they are only thus classified if governments see them as such. People such as the Rohingyas are not protected by these laws because their human rights have been eclipsed by something much greater: politics.
Bangladesh does not want to acknowledge the refugees, and instead calls them economic migrants, because they do not want to make them their responsibility, and do not want to create a mass exodus from Myanmar, which would surely provoke the military junta that has already indicated it wants some of Bangladesh’s territory.
Instead they will be ignored by one country and persecuted by another, while organizations such as the PHR and the toothless UN struggle to find a way to recognize the human rights of a people of many whose humanity is recognized by few.

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- See more at: http://www.bangladeshnews.net/index.php/nav/digest#sthash.tdE7Mqhj.dpuf

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