In the stateless Rohingya ethnicity, Bangladesh and Myanmar share much more than a current problem.
The neighbours share a common future, with challenges that must be better managed and resolved if that future is to be peaceful and prosperous.
Not too many neighbouring countries can boast of having Nobel Peace Prize winners. Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the honour in 1991 while Bangladesh’s Mohammad Yunus won it in 2006. Each was awarded for a lifetime devoted to defending the rights of the vulnerable and presenting proposals for their betterment.
Current circumstances – a crisis in which more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh to escape a military crackdown in Myanmar – make dialogue between the countries difficult.
As recently as September 12, Mohammad Yunus proposed seven steps that could provide the nasty narrative with a happy ending. But the father of microfinance is no politician and failed to influence national policy on this issue.
Leadership at the international level maintains a deliberate myopia hoping that silence, perhaps soft power and relative inertia, will resolve a crisis that is worsening by the day. Radical intervention is necessary as the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya deepens in makeshift, disease-wracked border camps.
The first step is to offer them statehood statehood must be provided with one, as a basic human right. Those without a homeland must be supported until a framework of stability has been established that allows and enables the members of the minority to thrive and not flee. Bangladesh and Myanmar are not one million miles apart.