Govt caught unawares by Rohingya exodus

Mizanur Rahman Khan and Rozina Islam | Update: 18:06, Sep 17, 2017


The government had no prior information about the Rohingya exodus into Bangladesh following the recent crackdown by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state on 25 August, some high officials concerned admit.

So far, some 409,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh till 10 September, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), an umbrella network of smaller humanitarian assistance agencies led by the International Organisation for Migration.

Due to lack of advance information, the authorities said, they could not prepare to deal with the evolving situation.

“The exodus began suddenly. It is not possible to get prior information all the time. There is no fault on the part of the authorities as there was no intelligence report,” secretary for public security at the home ministry Mostafa Kamal Uddin told Prothom Alo.

“Could the government fire upon the Rohingyas if it had prior information on the exodus?” he asked.

Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit chief CR Abrar, also professor of international relations at Dhaka University, said, “It’s not a matter of firing upon the Rohingya people. If the government had prior information, it could have alerted the international community about the possible Rohingya crisis. The prime minister could have written to world leaders. The government could have mounted pressure on the Myanmar government.”

The 15th meeting of the National Task Force on Myanmar Refugees and Undocumented Myanmar Nationals was held at Padma state guest house on 27 August. Organised by the foreign ministry, it was also attended by officials of the BGB, the Coast Guard, the police, the Armed Forces Division and intelligence agencies.

Nothing was mentioned in the meeting minutes as to why it was not possible to sense anything about the exodus from beforehand.

Security analyst M Sakhawat Hossain, also a retired brigadier general, said, “I would be surprised if the government has no prior intelligence report. The Myanmar government hinted earlier it would not allow Rohingyas to live in Rakhine state.”

Asked about this, state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam said, “The government is not supposed to know what is happening in a foreign country.”

Dilip Kumar Banik, the deputy commissioner of Bandarban district which shares 270-kilometre border with Myanmar, said, “No one alerted me. I too was caught unawares by the sudden exodus of the Rohingya people.”

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.