Rakhine State is a slim strip of land that borders Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is separated from Bangladesh by the River Naf and from the rest of Myanmar by the Arakan Yoma mountains, but it’s part of Burmese territory. The Buddhist majority are at violent odds with the Muslim population who also live (or should I say ‘lived’) in this state. And yet, just three months after shocking news reports of rape, torture, burnings of home, followed by a mass exodus of the Muslim refugees into Bangladesh (over 600,000 since 25 August and still counting), we are already talking about sending them back to the very people who want them out. On 24 November Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a deal to begin repatriating the Rohingyas back to Myanmar within the next two months.
In reality how many of the traumatised refugees will voluntarily return? Undoubtedly Myanmar knows most won’t. Like the Palestinians, the Rohingyas become a stateless people.
And meanwhile Cox’s Bazar, where the refugees have fled to in economically-challenged Bangladesh, becomes the perfect breeding ground for a radicalism that feeds off anger, despair and frustration.