U.N.´s Ambiguous Role in Plight of Myanmar´s Rohingya.
Four month after the eruption of the inter-communal violence in Myanmar´s Rakhine State, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that some 75.000 are internally displaced and that the numbers are rising. The UNHCR along with humanitarian partners is advocating for greater humanitarian access and support for the most affected villages, including Sittwe, Kyauk Taw and Maungdaw. The politicized nature of the United Nations and many of its partners however, is not making it more easy to find a long-term solution to the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
On 5 October Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the UNHCR in Geneva, told the press that the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that restrictions are preventing some villagers from reaching their work places, schools, food supplies and health services. Edwards said that there are still people who leave their villages to seek help in the camps for the internally displaced (IDP Camps).
The violence between the predominantly Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists in Rakhine state began erupting in June. A resurgence of the violence in August has since increased the number of internally displaced with 4.000 people. According to Edwards, the UNHCR has begun to focus on delivering aid to the places of their origin, hoping that this will prevent further displacement and that it will motivate more of the displaced to return to their villages and homes. The UNHCR is distributing relief supplies to 54.000 people in the IDP Camps. The UNHCR supplies basic necessities including temporary shelter, medical services, blankets and mosquito nets, basic cooking equipment and plastic kitchen sets as well as food and water.
The majority of both the Rohingya and Buddhists are welcoming the UNHCR and NGOs efforts to bring relief to the displaced and to those whose homes were damaged during the violence. There is however, also a growing awareness about the role of Bangladesh in the crisis, and a growing ambiguity about the UN and NGOs among both the Rohingya and the Buddhists in Myanmar. Both sides become increasingly aware of the fact that they are being played as pawns in a geopolitic game of “Risk” about Rakhine States oil and gas resources and two pipeline projects.
It is not the first time that Bangladesh is using the Rohingya as pawns to gain control over Myanmar´s Rakhine State. The majority of Rohingya in Rakhine State were displaced from Bangladesh in 1943 before Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan. Although there has always been a small number of well-integrated Rohingya in Rakhine state, the main influx of Rohingya into Myanmar came during their displacement from Bangladesh in 1943 when violent social and religious unrest forced them to flee from their homes and villages.
Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971 and received its first constitution in 1972. The rapid incline in oil prices during the early 70s OPEC oil embargo and discovery of major oil and gas reserves in Rakhine State made it one of the geopolitical most interesting area in the Greater Mekong Region.
In 1978 the military leader of Bangladesh, General Ziaur Rahman, together with the military intelligence service of Bangladesh, the DGFI, and the United States CIA began radicalizing the Rohingya in Myanmar. Their plan was to use the displaced Rohingya to establish a national state in Myanmar´s Rakhine State. A weak national state with a Rohingya proxy-government would have allowed Bangladesh to control the rich oil and gas resources. The United Nations, rather than demanding that the Rohingya could return safely to Bangladesh, began lobbying for the rights of the Rohingya to become citizens of Myanmar. The plan failed, and for several months Myanmar and Bangladesh were fighting and undeclared low-intensity war for control over the border region.
After the USA and Saudi Arabia began financing Osama Bin Laden´s Al Qaeda in Afghanistan during the 80s, Bangladesh began to turn into a hotbed of terrorism and one of the greatest contributors of foreign fighters in Afghanistan. Both the DGFI, Pakistan´s ISI and the CIA facilitated the establishment of the Al Qaeda associated Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam (HuJI) network.
Bangladesh is still one of the greatest contributors of Al Qaeda operatives and fighters. Al Qaeda operatives and mercenaries from Bangladesh were among other involved in missions in the Ache province of Indonesia, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Myanmar, Chechnya, Egypt, India, Kashmir, Tajikistan as well as the recent conflicts in Libya and Syria.
According to intelligence experts and analysts, the violence that erupted in Rakhine State in June and August has been planned and organized through Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. The operations are being supervised by the DGFI and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) in Bangladesh. Since 2010 these camps have experienced a significant influx of Al Qaeda associated extremist Islámic organizations and fighters. Although the UNHCR and other UN agencies have a presence in these camps it has so far failed to take action concerning the abuse of the refugee camps as well as the camps displaced populations. According to some international lawyers the recruitment and training of Rohingya in the camps could amount to forces use of mercenaries and to sponsoring terrorism.
The ambiguous role of the United Nations in Myanmar is further underpinned by the arrest of two UN employees in July and their sentencing on 27 August for their role in creating and aggravating the violence in Rakhine State. Although both the Rangoon government and the UN have done theirs to keep the matter quiet to avoid a scandal, it is an open secret that both UNHCR and World Food Program (WFP) employees were working for foreign intelligence services, and that they were directly involved in provoking and aggravating the so-called religious clashes between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists in Rakhine State.
The renewed interest of Bangladesh in controlling Rakhine State is caused by a lack of convergence in the energy needs of Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar. Myanmar is currently involved in two international pipeline projects. Both of them reduce Bangladesh´s access to oil and gas more than it seems willing to accept without once again playing out the Rohingya card.
Bangladesh has been stalling the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India (MBI) pipeline project for years because of concerns that its energy and security needs would not be met if India got access to the resources via the pipeline. An agreement was only reached after new surveys confirmed that the available oil and gas resources were far greater than first anticipated.
Both moderate Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists in Rakhine state become increasingly wary of the United Nations ambiguous role and the fact that the silent majority of both the Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists in Rakhine State are being abused as pawns in a game of geopolitic “Risk”.