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Smouldering debris of burned houses is seen in Warpait village, a Muslim village in Maungdaw located in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, 14 October, 2016. AFP/Ye Aung Thu
Report 283 / Asia

缅甸:若开邦新出现穆斯林动乱

近期,在流亡势力的领导下,罗兴亚士兵发起了袭击。这预示了局势的恶化。罗兴亚人对现状强烈的不满是暴力的主要根源,若要根除暴力,缅甸政府应扭转穆斯林少数民族长期受到歧视的局面、缓和其军事策略、并寻求其穆斯林盟友的援助。

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自2016年10月9日起的数日里,缅甸北部若开邦的边防守卫警察(BGP)便连遭恶性袭击,11月12日局势严重升级,并导致一名高级军官丧生,这均表明若凯邦新出现了穆斯林动乱。目前的暴力本质上有别于近几十年的状况,其不仅严重威胁到若开邦稳定发展的前景,还严重影响了整个缅甸。在巨大挑战之下,政府需要调整并整合其政治、政策和安全对策,确保暴力不再升级,使族群之间的紧张局势得到控制,并应适当考虑若开邦佛教徒的不满及恐慌情绪。

如无法成功控制局势,政府将面临巨大的风险。政府虽肩负着维护安全并以行动阻止攻击者的明确义务,但若要行动产生实效,政府则需更审慎地使用武力,并将重点放在政治和政策手段上。政府应首要解决民众的悲观绝望情绪,且这也是若开邦众多穆斯林愤怒的根源。而令局面复杂的则是,昂山素季虽对军队有一些影响力,但据宪法,她并不能直接控制军队。

该叛乱组织自称Harakah al-Yaqin(“坚定信仰运动”,HaY)。其由流亡于沙特阿拉伯的某罗兴亚委员会领导,地面指挥则由经过国际训练并具备现代游击战经验的当地罗兴亚人负责。该组织得益于地方和国际穆斯林教令(宗教司法意见)对其合法性的承认、和若凯邦北部穆斯林民众高度的同情和支持,并已在当地招募训练了数百名新兵。

缅甸政府虽正致力于应对在若开邦的复杂挑战,包括对穆斯林人口的长期歧视和对公民权利的剥夺及损害,但这个组织良好、看似资金充足的团体的出现却改变了局势。政府目前虽使用了大规模军事力量来应对袭击,却未能充分地区分武装分子与平民,再加之其拒绝向极弱势群体提供人道主义援助,并缺乏总体的政治战略。政府无法为民众带来希望,因此也不太可能驱逐该组织,甚之还或会造成暴力升级和民众大规模的流离失所。

若非一些地方领袖和社区的参与,坚定信仰运动也不会在当地立足并对战斗准备充分。但此地从不是激进分子的聚集区,当地大多数居民、长老及宗教领袖此前都在回避暴力手段,并认为暴力只会适得其反。而今逾多人拥护暴力行为的事实则反映出了动乱非必然,而是多年来在政策上彻底的失败。

政府强硬的安全手段违反了“同等规模反击”和“区别对待”的基本原则,这不仅有悖国际准则,而且适得其反。

政府的对策之关键应是着手于了解若凯邦部分穆斯林为何开始诉诸于暴力。当地民众已意识到其权利被不断侵蚀和践踏,并在社会和政治生活中被逐渐边缘化。自2012年若开邦出现反穆斯林暴力行动以来,矛盾愈发尖锐。穆斯林在2015年大选前被剥夺了选举权,而这也截断了他们联系和影响政治的最后的渠道。同时,马来西亚海上移民路线的中断堵住了对其至关重要的一条逃生途径,尤其对年轻人而言,他们仅此一线的希望也破碎了。正是日益增长的绝望感迫使更多人考虑暴力手段,但对政府来说,亡羊补牢,犹未晚矣——暴力趋势还尚存扭转余地。

政府首先应认识到,这些民众在该地区已生活了数辈,并将继续生活下去。因此,政府必须设法在国民生活中给他们提供一席之地。违背“同等规模反击”和“区别对待”等基本原则的强硬做法不仅有悖国际准则,且会适得其反。这样或会加剧绝望和仇恨心理,引发更多对坚定信仰运动的支持,并进一步地加剧暴力。国际经验已表明,强硬的军事行动,特别是在缺乏更广泛的政策框架的情况下,对遏制武装团体的效果甚微,并可能急剧恶化事态。

迄今为止,虽有迹象表明坚定信仰运动开展了军事训练且其组织团结,但跨国圣战主义或恐怖主义似乎还未被其提上章程。但危险的是,大规模的政府军力已经迫使成千上万的人民逃离家园或跨境进入孟加拉国,若政府处理不当,包括继续大举兴兵,那这将可能造成罗兴亚人愈发激进,而跨国圣战者则有可能乘机在缅甸推进自己的目标。为避免这种情况,政府应将其军事安全回应措施降级并纳入其详定的总体政治战略——在国家和穆斯林群体间建立更稳固、更积极的关系,并与区域各国开展更密切的合作和情报共享。

仰光/布鲁塞尔,2016年12月15日

Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 7 March 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
Briefing 155 / Asia

Building a Better Future for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees who have little hope of going home any time soon. The government should move to improve camp living conditions, in particular by lifting the education ban and fighting crime. Donors should support such steps.

What’s new? With no near-term prospect of returning to Myanmar, almost a million Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh face an uncertain future. An impressive aid operation has stabilised the humanitarian situation; attention must now turn to refugees’ lives and future prospects, in particular improved law and order and education for children.

Why does it matter? A lack of security and hope creates major risks. Militants and gangs increasingly operate with impunity in the camps, consolidating control to the detriment of non-violent political leaders. Without education opportunities, children will be left ill equipped to thrive wherever they live in the future.

What should be done? Bangladesh should institute an effective police presence in the camps and bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice. It should also lift its ban on formal education in the camps. If it does, donors should help meet the costs of these and other measures to improve refugees’ lives.

I. Overview

Eighteen months on from the mass expulsion of 740,000 Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh, no sustainable solution for the refugees is in sight. Repatriation to Myanmar should remain the long-term goal – not only to relieve the huge burden on Bangladesh but also because that is the strong preference of the refugees themselves. But the unfortunate reality is that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will be unable to return home to Myanmar for the foreseeable future. Systems are now largely in place to provide for their essential humanitarian needs in the sprawling refugee camps. It is now time to move beyond the emergency phase of managing this crisis. Shifting focus in this way requires Bangladesh to ease its restrictions on longer-term assistance. Specifically:

  • The Bangladesh government should lift its ban on the provision of formal education in the camps; local and international organisations are ready to provide such education.
     
  • It should also improve law and order in the camps, where militants and gangs increasingly operate with impunity and are consolidating control to the detriment of non-violent political voices and leaders. This requires instituting a regular and effective Bangladeshi police presence in the camps and investigating crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice.
     
  • For their part, donors should help Bangladesh not only to meet the refugees’ immediate humanitarian needs but also to cover the costs of measures that improve their lives and prospects for the future.

II. Slim Prospects for Return

The Myanmar security forces’ mass expulsion of Rohingya starting in August 2017 created a major humanitarian emergency in neighbouring Bangladesh and the largest refugee settlement in the world.[fn]This briefing is based on an April 2019 visit by Crisis Group to Dhaka and the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, including interviews with refugee leaders, humanitarian agencies and local analysts. For more background on the situation of the Rohingya, see Crisis Group Asia Reports N°s 296, The Long Haul Ahead for Myanmar’s Rohingya Refugee Crisis, 16 May 2018; 292, Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis Enters a Dangerous New Phase, 7 December 2017; 283, Myanmar: A New Muslim Insurgency in Rakhine State, 15 December 2016; 261, Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State, 22 October 2014; and 251, The Dark Side of Transition: Violence Against Muslims in Myanmar, 1 October 2013; and Asia Briefing N°153, Bangladesh-Myanmar: The Danger of Forced Rohingya Repatriation, 12 November 2018.Hide Footnote Around one million Rohingya, from this and previous exoduses, live in a cluster of densely populated camps in Cox’s Bazar district, as well as some in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Some eighteen months on from the main exodus, a major humanitarian operation by local and international aid groups has successfully addressed the immediate priorities. Life-saving essentials – food, water, sanitation, shelter and basic health services – are now in place. As the monsoon season looms, the camps are much better prepared this year than before: drainage has been improved and roads through the camps have been surfaced. But there are limits to what can be done to mitigate risk in such densely packed camps carved out of former forest and where there are almost no flat areas. A heavy monsoon (unlike last year’s unusually mild one) could still take a serious toll, and a cyclone – a relatively frequent event in this region – would be devastating.

The likelihood that the refugees will remain in Bangladesh for years requires that attention now turn to their medium-term prospects.

There is no prospect that the refugees will be able to return home to Myanmar’s Rakhine State any time soon. The Myanmar authorities still have not addressed the fundamental issues of Rohingyas being denied citizenship, freedom of movement, security and other basic rights. Fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army – a militant outfit that draws its support mainly from the ethnic Rakhine population (a mostly Buddhist group distinct from the Rohingya Muslims) – has escalated sharply since January.[fn]See Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°154, A New Dimension of Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, 24 January 2019.Hide Footnote The fighting has affected remaining Rohingya communities, both because they are caught between the warring parties and sometimes find themselves in the crossfire, and because of the uncertainty and fear that fighting brings. This creates a further impediment to the refugees’ return. The conflict also has pushed repatriation down the list of priorities in Naypyitaw, which is currently focused on the Arakan Army insurgency and national elections in 2020.

III. Fraught Conditions in the Camps

The likelihood that the refugees will remain in Bangladesh for years requires that attention now turn to their medium-term prospects. A key priority is education. The Bangladesh government currently prohibits the provision of formal education to the refugees. This restriction robs families of their hope for a more economically secure future and ensures that a generation of children will be deprived of the skills they will need to flourish, wherever they ultimately live.

Informal private “tuitions” held in private dwellings and networks of madrassas that only teach the Koran do not adequately fill the formal education gap.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, refugee leaders and humanitarian agencies, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 2019.Hide Footnote No evidence has emerged of these madrassas promoting violence or intolerance among children, or of indoctrination or recruitment by local or transnational jihadists. However, a policy of denying young people formal education and leaving them reliant on unregulated madrassas almost certainly increases the risks of such groups gaining a foothold in the camps.[fn]Bangladeshi officials also cite this as a risk. See “Delayed repatriation risks breeding Rohingya terrorists: Bangladesh official”, The Irrawaddy, 24 April 2019.Hide Footnote Already, the Chittagong-based Islamist movement Hefazat-e-Islam – which has publicly called for jihad against Myanmar – has considerable influence over the madrassa network in the camps, through the funding and religious scholars that it provides.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, journalists and analysts, Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 2019. For more details on Hefazat-e-Islam, see Crisis Group Asia Report N°295, Countering Jihadist Militancy in Bangladesh, 28 February 2018. On the calls for jihad, see “Hefazat: Jihad against Myanmar if Rohingya killing continues”, Dhaka Tribune, 15 September 2017.Hide Footnote

Equally concerning is the lack of law and order. One prominent refugee leader described the security situation as “very serious”, saying he was “unable to sleep at night” for fear of attack.[fn]Crisis Group interview, Rohingya refugee leader, refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, April 2019.Hide Footnote A determined and often violent struggle is currently underway for de facto control of the camps. At stake is informal political authority over a huge population and access to lucrative economic rents from the camp economy – both licit and illicit – through corruption and extortion. The groups vying for control include the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group, which has shown that it is willing to deploy deadly violence to further its aims; informal networks of religious leaders; non-violent political and civil society groups; and a random assortment of criminal gangs.

Violent groups operate freely in the camps. As evening draws in and humanitarian workers withdraw to their bases in Cox’s Bazar town, security is in the hands of untrained and unarmed night watchmen appointed from among the refugees. Overstretched Bangladeshi police are focused on perimeter security and protection of local Bangladeshi communities and remain mostly outside the camps at night. Refugees express serious concerns about their personal security, and militants and gangs are intimidating, kidnapping and killing with impunity.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, refugee leaders, analysts and humanitarian workers, Cox’s Bazar, April 2019. See also “In Rohingya camps, a political awakening faces a backlash”, Reuters, 24 April 2019.Hide Footnote Murders and other forms of violence are an almost nightly occurrence; the police rarely investigate, and perpetrators have almost never been brought to justice.[fn]Ibid.Hide Footnote

Allowing formal education in the camps is a first priority.

This creates a toxic political environment within the camps. Without basic security, non-violent political actors face intimidation or worse. For example, ARSA was likely responsible for the grisly murder of Arif Ullah, a camp leader, in June 2018 – based on the manner of his killing which is typical of ARSA (a deep knife cut to the throat) and the fact that death threats typical of ARSA had been circulating against him on WhatsApp, accusing him of being too close to the Bangladesh army.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, analysts with detailed knowledge of the security situation in the camps, Bangladesh, April 2019.Hide Footnote Some refugee leaders to whom Crisis Group spoke in April 2019 had received credible death threats, they believe from ARSA, and fear for their lives.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, refugee leaders, Cox’s Bazar, April 2019.Hide Footnote Amid the lawlessness, violent actors are likely to further consolidate control, which will stifle peaceful political organisation among the refugees and constructive debate about how to shape their own futures. Effective control of the camps will pass to those who prioritise accumulation of power or wealth, or militant agendas, over the future well-being of the community.

The burden of ameliorating these problems disproportionately falls on Bangladesh. Understandably, Dhaka’s policy response is focused on repatriation, which it sees as the only viable durable solution for the refugees. Making life better for the Rohingya where they are now would not only impose financial strain on Bangladesh but might be perceived as working at cross-purposes with Bangladesh’s interest in Rohingya returns to Myanmar.

IV. Improving Refugees’ Medium-term Prospects

Returns to Myanmar should remain the long-term goal – not only to relieve the hardship visited on Bangladesh and avoid consolidating what a UN investigation called ethnic cleansing, but also because that is the preference of the refugees themselves.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, refugees and refugee leaders, Cox’s Bazar, April 2019 and November 2017-March 2018. See also “‘I still don’t feel safe to go home’: Voices of Rohingya refugees”, Oxfam, 18 December 2017.Hide Footnote International pressure on Myanmar through the UN and by countries having influence in Naypyitaw should continue to focus on improving the situation of Rohingya remaining in Rakhine State, a prerequisite for any sustainable return. This pressure should include insistence on implementing the Kofi Annan Commission recommendations of August 2017, in particular its detailed suggestions on addressing discrimination and ensuring freedom of movement and a credible pathway to restoring Rohingyas’ citizenship rights. It is only by demonstrably improving conditions in Rakhine that any refugees would consider returning home.

At the same time, Bangladesh should recognise – even if it does not want to state this publicly – that no major repatriation is on the horizon. In this context, policies that restrict the Rohingya refugees’ ability to prepare for an uncertain future should be eased. Allowing formal education in the camps is a first priority, and there exist local and international groups with the ability and willingness to do so.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, humanitarian agencies, Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, April 2019.Hide Footnote Measures to improve law and order would include instituting a regular Bangladeshi police presence in the camps, investigating crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice. Failure to address these issues now will do significant long-term harm to the refugees, and potentially fuel insecurity and instability in this part of Bangladesh.

Though some of the burdens to be borne by Bangladesh are unavoidable, donors can and should, at least, lessen the financial impact on Dhaka. If the implications of the Rohingya refugee crisis for regional peace and security are not to worsen, donor countries need to be generous in their support not only to the annual humanitarian appeal but, if Dhaka’s restrictions are eased, also to longer-term assistance to the refugees.

Brussels, 25 April 2019

Appendix A: Map of Rakhine State