The truth about Myanmar must be told, 10,000 times
10 years, the government of Myanmar has committed genocide against the Rohingya people. This is not a complicated issue, it is a straightforward instance of one religion, Buddhism, abusing and killing members of another, Islam.
It is a remarkable act of bravado; Buddhism is the one major religion that, the Pew survey is reporting, is declining in number of members, whereas Islam, already with many more members, is gaining conversions faster than any other religious faith. The Muslim world is far more powerful than the Buddhist.
The nation that bears the immediate cost of Myanmar’s actions is Bangladesh. In a previous article “The great lie,” I estimated that with another 600,000 Rohingya likely to cross the border in 2017, there will be a total of more than one million refugees here in Bangladesh.
The great lie
To maintain these refugees at a minimum level of economic welfare is going to cost $200 million per year.
Myanmar is waging war against Bangladesh. Exporting a tremendous economic and security burden.
The previous article argued that Bangladesh should bring a legal case against the leaders of Myanmar, accusing and proving them guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. The objective should be to see them jailed for life.
This will take a long time, as the strength of the international judicial system is still weak. This legal approach is important but it is not enough. The great lie must be fought with truth telling.
The resources of China and Russia are lined up against Bangladesh on this to say nothing of Thailand and India.
But this is still not enough. The presence of a large number of desperate refugees is also a threat to national security. If the refugees do turn in their frustration to an extreme view of Islam, it will be dangerous for Bangladesh.
No turning back
The first task is to settle these people in refugee camps, to insure that there is a secular school system put in place and to find ways to put the refugees to work.
The school system should be built on the best teachers one can find among the refugees [who should receive a salary for their work].
Text books in the Rohingya language can be prepared and used. The refugees should contribute to their upkeep. It is very unlikely that the Myanmar government will ever accept them back.
The leaders are cruel, desperate individuals who have failed their nation. Planning for the refugees must be realistic and should assume that there is no returning them.
What is a sensible program? First, to tackle all the major countries of the world and get them to accept some of these refugees. Perhaps in a period of five years it might be possible to get half of them resettled.
But to do so several things are going to be necessary. During the interim period, the children must be schooled, careful security rules must be in place to ensure that the authorities have blocked infiltration by Muslim fundamentalists preaching violence, and the population must contribute to their own upkeep.
These are difficult objectives but it is likely that there will be support from Islamic countries and perhaps the Western nations.
It is the North American and European states that have to be persuaded to accept some of the refugees, so it is important to prepare along the lines that they want. Some Islamic states will probably also agree to take some of the refugees.
Such actions will be opposed by China, India, and Russia. But this will ultimately be achieved to their disadvantage. Bangladesh should stand for its own interests and openly tout the fact that these nations are supporting genocide.
Myanmar cannot be trusted
Another tricky area is relations with Myanmar. There is no doubt that the actions of the Myanmar government are equivalent to an act of war. Sending one million persons across the border is a clear attempt to harm and destabilise Bangladesh. It cannot go unanswered.
Myanmar cannot be trusted. The Bangladesh army should be deployed along the border, the readiness level of the divisions upgraded with additional manpower, equipment, war fighting ammunition stocks, and a clear policy to push back against any violation of the border.
This should include shooting down any Myanmar helicopter that comes into Bangladesh airspace, shooting back at any Myanmar security force-shooting into Bangladesh, and actively helping refugees being abused within one mile of the border on the Myanmar side.
The prime minister has worked to build up the armed forces; these can now be used to protect the country against this aggression.
The Bangladesh Border Guard does not have the weapons to present a plausible deterrent to Myanmar army.
The development of genocide and crimes against humanity must be systematically argued and presented. With the UN General Assembly just past us,this is the time to put forth the strong case against Myanmar.
This is the time to fight the spreading of the great lie. This is the time to force the rest of the world to recognise what has been done here and to demand that they stand with Bangladesh.
We can expect the Russians and the Chinese to stand strongly with Myanmar and to propagate the great lie. But most nations will see this for what it is and support Bangladesh.
To fight the great lie, the truth must be told 10,000 times. An active public relations policy should be followed to achieve this.
It is particularly urgent for the Bangladesh government to take control of the support for the refugees and do a superior job.
In the hand of the government
At present, most of the work is being done by Islamic organisations. Bangladesh is a secular state where Islam is the dominant, important religion. Hence the management of the Rohingya welfare, education, and financing must be in the hands of the government.
Assistance from NGOs or religious groups should be allowed only with well defined rules.
No time should be wasted in gaining control of the refugee situation.
Left unattended, the refugee crisis is going to become increasingly difficult as it will be the target for recruitment by violent Islamic groups.
The western countries will refuse to take any refugees and there will be continuing trouble from criminal activities.
The nation may be stuck with all of these refugees indefinitely.
One issue that is very difficult is the question of the ARSA, the Arakan Salvation Army. Should covert support to this group be provided in return for guidance and partial control? I do not know the answer to this, but it needs to be considered by the Bangladesh security leaders.
Bangladesh’s security, economic stability, and religious equilibrium depend on the government playing a strong hand, gaining control of the management of the refugees, defending the border, and publicly arguing the case for crimes against humanity and genocide.
It is no surprise that China and Russia are supporting Myanmar and trumpeting the great lie. These nations have never had a moral particle in their political stances, both have killed millions of their own citizens to further maintaining power.
But it is shameful that India is taking the side of Myanmar and putting forth the great lie. India will try to manipulate the PM to agree with their side. But India will never succeed in this.
Her strong upholding of the secular state while understanding the central importance of Islam will protect Bangladesh from those proclaiming the great lie.
Forrest Cookson is an American economist.