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9 October, 2017 11:47:43 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 October, 2017 12:27:32 PM


Impact of the Rohingya crisis on Bangladesh (PART-I)

While the government of Bangladesh will and should push for the return of the Rohingyas it is unlikely much progress can be made in the next 12 months
Forrest Cookson
Impact of the Rohingya crisis on Bangladesh (PART-I)

The movement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya into Bangladesh in a short period, driven by the cruel, sadistic Myanmar army, is causing grave damage to Bangladesh.  Indeed it is an act of war.  Those who perpetuated this crime should be punished.  Those who support the genocide should be looked upon with suspicion. This article explores some of the consequences.

1. Assumptions a. The inflow of Rohingya refugees will continue despite the alleged efforts of the Myanmar military to slow down the influx.  The end position will be about 750,000 Rohingya will have entered Bangladesh since January 1, 2017.  By the end of 2017 there will be few Rohingya left in Myanmar.  We estimate 150,000 will have been killed leaving within Myanmar about 100,000 of the original one million.  Our estimate of the killings was presented in the third article.  We have reviewed our methodology and find that it continues to be the best available estimating method.
b. There will be no return of Rohingya to Myanmar through 2018.  The Myanmar Government is putting out a fake story that it will it allow Rohingya back who have “documentation”.   There is little documentation that has ever been made available to ordinary Rohingya and the refugees have likely lost much of what they might have had.  There are many countries claiming that the Rohingya will return; in reality few will.  The driving out of the Rohingya was a carefully designed ethnic cleansing triggered by an ARSA attack on facilities of the Myanmar Government.  It was the Myanmar army who manipulated the ARSA to attack.  While our assumption is limited to 12 months, it is unlikely that many persons will be returned over the next two years.

c. While the government of Bangladesh will and should push for return it is unlikely much progress can be made in the next 12 months.  The Myanmar Government will stall, committees will be formed, meetings will be held, calls for sorting out origins will be made, arguments over citizenship extended.  The talk will go on and on as it does.  The UN will pontificate, the Western countries will feebly demand action, Russian and China will call for a meaningless gradual approach. All of this will result in no significant positive result.  

2. Location: While the Government will do a reasonable job of issuing ID cards and trying to keep the Rohingya in the designated areas inevitably there will be a lot of people who leave the camps and move into other areas.  One should remember that there are perhaps 3-400,000 Rohingya were already in Bangladesh before the current problems started.  Most of these men and women have drifted north and have found some kind of life, hence there are plenty of contacts around the country that the new refugees can make.  

3. Impact on the Cox’s Bazaar Area:  The impact on the southern part of Bangladesh along the border with Myanmar will be devastating.  There are Rohingya spread out over much of the area and it will be many months before they will have proper shelter, water supply and sanitation.  In the meantime there is widespread chaos as people fight for a place to shelter.  The assumption of this note is that the Rohingya will not return to Myanmar before one year.  Actually it is unlikely that they will ever return.  Hopefully some of these refugees will be relocated to other countries but that is very uncertain.  Most will stay in Bangladesh.  How to manage the long term problem is unclear.  Over time many will find their way to other locations in Bangladesh.  However, one must assume that in the Cox’s Bazaar area there will be several hundred thousand for the next three years.  The Government will best deal with this by allowing the Rohingya to go to school and to work.  There is no reason that they should not go to work and contribute something to Bangladesh and cover their own costs.  Their presence will disrupt the Cox’s Bazaar area for years to come.  At least education and employment will ease everyone’s problems.  Available data indicate that Bangladeshis with low levels of education are fully employed, so the Rohingya do not really threaten Bangladesh jobs.

4. Impact on politics:  The major political event in the next two years is the Parliamentary election.  The prime minister has done a very good job in managing the Rohingya crisis.   Her international standing will certainly rise after her humane, firm handling of this catastrophe.  There will be plenty of difficulty in the next few months as the refugees struggle to get settled, find adequate shelter, as everyone works to establish medical facilities, to feed and care for the refugees and to control the movement and location of the Rohingya. No one should think that management of this great inflow is simple. Conflicts and tragedy will occur.  But it is likely that the continuing steady hand of the PM will get the country through the next two years.  While there will be attacks on the PM for her handling of the crisis these will be unconvincing.  The impact on the election will be a stronger AL that will benefit from the Rohingya influx.  The population according to small survey we did early in 2017 supports the PM’s approach.
For the next six months the Rohingya crisis will distract attention from election politics, rumors of assassination attempts, and arguments over constitutional amendments.  The army will be busy helping to manage the Rohingya.  Less talk about these  political issues is probably beneficial.
The international community will get very excited about the disruption potential of the Rohingya influx.  There are certainly domestic groups that have views as to what should be done, but neither the military, nor the Islamic groups, nor the international NGOs will have much impact on the direction of policy.  The army has its hands full with the work on the settling of the Rohingya, the Hefayet organization is doing good work in helping the incoming refugees but their demand for jihad will go no where.
The opposition parties will make many statement and criticisms of the Government but this has little impact on the real activity that is going on.  The AL politicians will persist in getting in the way of those doing the work but this hype will soon calm down.  Those dealing with the situation from the PM downwards have a tremendous amount of work to do; this will dominate the political implications.

5.  Food availability.  The rice prices have stabilized with the realization that there is plenty of food and stocking up at present high prices is foolish. The amount of food required for the Rohingya is not enough to disturb the market.  Total rice consumption by Rohingya would be less than 0.2 million mts per year.  This can easily be managed within the availability of rice in the country and will not influence the rice prices in the national economy. Food for vulnerable groups [pregnant women, women nursing infants, under 3 years old infants] will have to be handled by NGOs.

The writer is an economist




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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