The first anniversary of the joint military operation by the Bangladesh and Myanmar militaries in the No Man’s Land Rohingya encampment near the Konapara border area passed on Nov. 14 without barely a mention. This milestone has reignited scrutiny over the extent of military cooperation between the two countries.
Yadanar Maung, the spokesperson at watchdog group Justice for Myanmar, strongly criticized Dhaka’s close cooperation with Naypyidaw. “The Myanmar military is a criminal organization involved in genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity with total impunity. By continuing to engage and cooperate with this genocidal military, Bangladesh is awarding it with legitimacy and providing support that only emboldens it to continue to commit atrocities against the people,” said Yadanar Maung.
A 45-page leaked memo, published last January, sheds light on the depth of this cooperation. Originating from Myanmar’s Central Committee for Counter-Terrorism, the document details a coordinated effort to neutralize the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), including a significant operation by Bangladesh forces in November. This revelation raises questions about the broader implications of such military collaboration in the context of the ongoing crisis in Myanmar.
The November 2022 incident, which resulted in the death of a Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) officer, injuries to a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) official, and the tragic death of Sajeda Begum, a Rohingya teenage mother, was initially reported as a confrontation with drug smugglers.
Despite promises of an investigation by the Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, no conclusive report has been made public, leaving many questions unanswered. This lack of clarity has only added to the growing unease among the Rohingya community and international observers.
In what seemed to be a response to the unresolved November incident, the situation escalated on Jan. 18. The Bangladesh government reportedly deployed forces to clear the No Man’s Land area of ARSA presence.
The involvement of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) in this operation, believed to have been supported by Bangladesh authorities, further highlights the complexities of the Rohingya crisis and raises questions about the long-term strategy for peace and stability in the region.
The international legal implications of these actions are significant. Mike Becker, a former lawyer at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), suggests that the ongoing ICC investigation, which is subject to limitations, might encompass these incidents if they are sufficiently linked to the situation that triggered the investigation.
Furthermore, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) could also consider these events within its mandate if they involve serious international crimes originating in Myanmar.
Becker also raises concerns that the increased military coordination between the Myanmar and Bangladesh militaries could lead to Dhaka prioritizing its security and economic interests over the conditions necessary for a safe and dignified return of the Rohingya to Myanmar.
A former Rohingya refugee who resided in No Man’s Land during the attacks reflected on the events that took place in November 2022: “That day brought us immense suffering – some of us were jailed, others abducted, our belongings destroyed, and some lives were lost. We had chosen to stay in No Man’s Land, close to Myanmar, not to burden Bangladesh. That was our hope. Now, even that has been taken from us.”
Shafiur Rahman is a documentary filmmaker working on Rohingya issues.
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