Can Biden move the Rohingya crisis toward a resolution?

November 24, 2020

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Rohingya refugee workers carry bags of salt in a processing yard in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Reuters)

After four years of the US abdicating its role as a global leader, the incoming Biden administration will be keen to reassert American leadership around the world. Few issues will be higher on the agenda than the Rohingya genocide.

In normal times, one would expect a US president to be the leading voice on the international stage. But these are not normal times. The US stands more isolated than at any time since the Second World War.

Washington will therefore need to be very proactive and very focused on rebuilding its standing on the international stage — something that has been its greatest national-defense asset throughout the post-war era.

There is every indication that Joe Biden understands this. It is also reassuring that he is not a novice in these matters. He has decades of foreign policy experience and has been involved trying to solve various crises since Bosnia in the 1990s.

He has also been explicit in his desire to re-establish a robust, rules-based global order grounded in the founding values of the UN, but in which the US would once again be known and trusted as the ultimate enforcer of international law around the world.

So one should expect that the Biden administration will handle fresh crises with the kind of humanity and determination one would have expected in, for example, the days of the Balkan wars.

The greatest test for this reset, and the global consequences it will engender, will be the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Currently, the overwhelming majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya people are languishing in refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh. Almost all of those who remain in Myanmar are effectively captives in so-called “internally displaced people’s camps,” which are run by the very military force that forced their brethren from the country.

Myanmar has had no meaningful push back from the West as a result of the persecution of the Rohingya, and it also continues to enjoy political and economic support from China.

Clearly, things need to change — and the US has a wide-ranging arsenal of measures it can deploy against genocidal regimes. The Trump administration had no interest in this issue but for the incoming Biden administration, this will be where the rubber meets the road for their vision of America as a leader of the free world, and as a global guarantor of international law.

It is unlikely that Naypyidaw will relent in the first instance but, before long, a stringent sanctions regime will be back on the table.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

To begin with, expect a much-increased focus on the issue of the Rohingya at the UN — though, naturally, progress there will be blocked by Beijing. Also expect significant back-channel communication between the US government and the government of Myanmar, with the former putting pressure on the latter to redress a legal regime that discriminates against the Rohingya and other minorities; to ramp down the wars waged by the military against the myriad of ethnic minorities throughout the country; and to surrender to international legal bodies those suspected of orchestrating and executing the genocide of the Rohingya.

It is unlikely that Naypyidaw will relent in the first instance but, before long, a stringent sanctions regime will be back on the table — which will inevitably also affect Beijing’s Belt and Road commercial interests in Myanmar. Once that comes into play, progress for the Rohingya will become possible. It will not be easy and the results are not a forgone conclusion, but there is yet hope for this persecuted group.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a director at the Center for Global Policy in Washington, DC. Twitter: @AzeemIbrahim

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view


2 replies

  1. Personally i am not in favor that everyone should look up to a super power far away to sole their regional problems. It is the region that should sole the problem: ASEAN and neighboring states.

  2. “I have long thought, said and taught the greatest deficiency of Progressives is that they must always progress. They can never stand still, for once any do, in a snap of finger, it turns conservative, rejected by the Progressives who have already moved-on.

    There is a second great deficiency of the Progressive dilemma that this 2020 election has now brought to the forefront. Progressives to maintain progress must lie. I am a bit surprised this whole thing got this far. I shuttered when Clinton, bad boy billy, said ‘I did not have sexual relations with that women.’ I thought the whole thing would snowball much faster. ‘If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor’… and he still got reelected in 2012.

    How do I relate this to the 2020 election? Much theory is forming on why Dems did what they did to blow up this election. I have already said they simply grossly underestimated Trump landslide. Obviously Dems used every dirty trick in the book, on steroids, and threw down the massive mess of mail-in hooey. But come early 11.4 they suddenly realized all their tricks were inadequate to turn back the tide of Trump wave so they had to suddenly spike the vote… or go to jail all the sooner. Paying the rent for a few more days on the stay-out-of-jail card drove them to the blatant fraud, total lie, gross and obvious vote flip for Biden’s alleged win. 

    In early morning hours, mourning the numbers, they had no choice but to do the unthinkable, lie all the more and more openly. How did they get caught so badly with pants down, numbers to? Rank and file among Dems have learned the way to succeed in the Party is to lie. The bigger the lie the better. So these many months they have been lying to themselves, to each other and especially top dogs, Barry/Soros, ‘we got this, Trump does not have a chance.’ Now of course Dems have been the party of lies since bad boy billy, even long before, and often Rinos have been little better. This is not an R or D thing. I’d go a step or two further, they have not simply become the party of lie, but the cult of big fat lie, caught and found. Who wants in? They are a fat gluttonous jackass far out on a very skinny branch. The branch busted and we all watch free fall waiting for final thud. They will try to continue and their thugs will row their boat hard, but Dem’s are now cooked goose on a dinghy with kraken circling. Trust gone… for them, everyone is out to save as much skin as they can. Trust the plan materializes for us.

    Progressives must always Progress and to do that, they must endlessly lie. See it from Clinton lie to 2020 fraud. All the lies have finally added up to return goose egg.


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