Published:  12:55 AM, 14 September 2017

UN safe zone a solution to Rohingya crisis

A person rarely gets more than one or two opportunities to make a decision that will mark history. The Rohingya crisis, however, is one such circumstance.

The current situation has two major aspects that need to be addressed. The first, the humanitarian issue, has been handled well by Bangladesh. It has given the hapless victims of genocide s nohelter and an assurance that they will not be handed over to the Myanmar military.

Make no mistake: very few countries, save for Turkey and Germany, have welcomed refugees with open arms. This has also been a brave decision for a country hit hard by one of the worst flood seasons in the last two decades and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves praise.

The next steps must be to give aid agencies unfettered access to Rohingya camps and to engage the international media to highlight the ethnic cleansing policy the marauding Myanmar army has unleashed on one of the most persecuted minorities of our time.

However, this approach is only the first step towards solving a crisis that, like he mythical serpent hydra, keeps rearing new heads.

The other major aspect is the matter of international diplomacy, where Bangladesh's first hurdle is China. The latter has a huge stake in Myanmar, especially Rakhine state and its northern territories, which is both rich in mineral resources and home to the Rohingyas. China is understandably worried and does not want to upset the status quo in Rakhine.

China must be assured, and rightly so, that any new scenario favourable to the Rohingyas in northern Rakhine will not harm the country's role in the economic development of the region.

Once China comes onboard, and with our close ties to India, Bangladesh should use its relationship with Russia and three other permanent members of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution calling for a UN-mandated safe zone for the Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine.

Turkey, a NATO member, has shown interest in the plight of the Rohingya, and has expressed its concern about the persecuted minority. The country has also recently recalibrated its foreign policy to acknowledge Russia's growing stake in post-ISIS Syria and is thus in a position to persuade Russia and China to tilt their foreign policy in favour of the Rohingyas.

-Ahmede Hussain

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