China's flip-flop on Myanmar's Rohingya crisis puts it under scanner

ANI | Updated: Dec 06, 2017 09:25 IST

Hong Kong, Dec 6 (ANI): An expert has drawn attention towards China's turnabout regarding Myanmar's Rohingya crisis and its earnest wish to resolve it.

Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia Director at the Amnesty International and an op-ed contributor to the New York Times, in an article titled 'Behind China's Attempt to Ease the Rohingya Crisis' stated that while China has always strenuously avoided playing a high-profile part in ameliorating international humanitarian crises, its current maneuvering of the Rohingya issue - which seeks to intervene only to preserve impunity for horrific crimes - has been seeming to put its varied resources to dangerous use.

"This is hardly the sort of behaviour worthy of a great power that in the words of Mr. Xi [Chinese President Xi Jinping], aspires to make greater contributions to mankind," he added.

While its most identifiable role in Myanmar had earlier been to shield the local military from international criticism for carrying out what the United Nations high commissioner on human rights called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" that set off the exodus of more than 600,000 people to neighboring Bangladesh, China shifted gears on November 19, while on a trip to Bangladesh and Myanmar, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, announced that Beijing was brokering a "three-phase plan" to bring about "a final and fundamental solution" to the crisis.

"The 'plan', which was light on details, included a ceasefire, to be followed by the repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar and, later, policies to spur long-term economic development in Rakhine State, home to most of the Rohingya," the author mentioned.

Bequelin further suggested that far from representing a new era in which China 'upholds victims' rights and seeks accountability for abuses,' its intervention was intended to protect its own narrow interests.

"China's actions appear to hold appeal for both Bangladesh and Myanmar. For China, tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar represent a threat to its regional ambitions. Beijing has geopolitical and economic interests in Myanmar, and particularly in Rakhine, where it is developing the port in the city of Kyaukpyu Port and a special economic zone. Mr. Wang reportedly said to Bangladeshi officials last month that Beijing does not want the Rohingya crisis to impede the progress of a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic initiative," he stated, adding, "the Rohingya are a lesser consideration for Beijing. China's proposal has no guarantee that all of the Rohingya would be allowed to return home, let alone secure recognition or citizenship (most Rohingya are considered "stateless"). Once they crossed back into Myanmar, the Rohingya returnees would be at the mercy of the same Tatmadaw that dispatched them to Bangladesh."

Bequelin added that China could displace the comprehensive recommendations made by the Kofi Annan Commission report on the conflict, which, he said, was something Aung San Suu Kyi had committed to but that nevertheless remained abhorrent to the Tatmadaw, and promote its own "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure plan as the long-term solution to Myanmar's crisis in Rakhine.

Bequelin concluded by saying that although China has the diplomatic, humanitarian and economic resources to make a real difference in the lives of the Rohingyas, its current approach risked rewarding the crimes committed against them.

"Myanmar's ethnic-cleansing generals will be able to retreat deeper into China's orbit, unburdened by any fears of being held accountable," he wrote. (ANI)