Bangladesh is Losing Grip on Rohingya Refugees

Starting in 2017, the country of Myanmar forcefully pushed the people of the Muslim faith out of the country in order to “cleanse”  Myanmar of religious beliefs other than Buddhism. By 2018, over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims, who primarily lived in Rakhine state in the northern part of Myanmar, sought refuge in the neighboring country of Bangladesh after an increased amount of violence towards them by their own government. As the already heavily populated and geographically small country of Bangladesh has taken in the Rohingya refugees, the two governments have recently come to an understanding that those of the Rohingya faith may return to Myanmar; however, part of the agreement was that the Myanmar government would allow Rohingya Muslims back into the country, but they would be treated as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship. The refugees are very afraid to return due to the violence inflicted upon them prior to their escape and do not accept the terms of the agreement. Rohingyan refugees have become vocal about the agreement between the two countries, protesting in and out of the refugee camps. The chaos created by the protests of the Rohingya refugees, the inability of the two countries to find a viable option and the exasperating number of refugees has turned this into a global crisis.

 Since this past summer, the turmoil within the refugee camps in Bangladesh has sky-rocketed. Bangladesh is unable to contain the vast amounts of people they have taken in. Brad Adams of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch said, “The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps.” The Rohingya refugees have begun publically displaying their frustrations with the two countries, conveying their opinions to people in and out of the refugee camps. The uproar of prostests has agitated the country of Bangledesh, but they are stuck at a dead end due to the fact that those protesting the agreement the agreement to return to Myanmar are not willing to return; they instead want a better life in Bagladesh.

Several refugee and humanitarian non-governmental organizations have entered Bangladesh to help those within the overpopulated refugee camps, most being in Cox’s Bazar, a city on the coast of Myanmar. Within the camps, the Rohingya people cram themselves into small huts made of bamboo with their families where they sleep on hay. Many of the refugees left Myanmar with no belongings and are only living off of what they have found in Bangladesh and were given at the refugee camps. The International Committee of the Red Cross has worked with the Myanmar Red Cross to provide the Rohingya refugees within the camps with, “food, mats, blankets and other household items for men, women and children, shelter and latrine construction materials and technical support to access safe drinking water.” Along with basic necessities for living, the organizations have raised a great amount of concern for the violence and humanitarian factors that go with living within the camps. 

The United Nations has been continuously working with both Myanmar and Bangladesh to find an end to this crisis, or possible ways to support both the over 700,000 refugees and the overcrowded country of Bangladesh that has taken in the refugees. In the past year, the UN has investigated the government and military of Myanmar, in order to prove the wrongdoing towards the people of Myanmar. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Thailand for their annual meeting and spoke with both Myanmar and Bangladesh, about his concern for the refugee crisis between the two countries. Speaking of the crisis, the Washington Post reported he said, “It remains, of course, Myanmar’s responsibility to address the root causes and ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine state, in accordance with international norms and standards.”

The U.S. State Department should support the effort to diminish the refugee crisis of the Rohingya people within Bangladesh. As one of the fastest growing refugee crisis’ in the world, with over 700,000 people leaving the country of Myanmar due to the government and military’s ethnic cleansing, the country of Bangladesh needs support of global entities. The International Committee of the Red Cross has worked already in support of the displaced Rohingya people providing them with living necessities and humanitarian responses. The U.N. also should be greatly supported, as they are investigating the crisis and the ethnic response by the country of Myanmar. Providing support would allow the United States to understand the longstanding relationship between the two countries as a western entity and aid an ongoing glabal crisis.

Unethical and Illegal Wildlife Treatment in Thailand

Thailand is known around the world for its beautiful and diverse wildlife. Unfortunately, this creates an opening for exploitation of the animals. Poachers routinely traffic and kill animals for their valuable body parts to be sold in forgin markets. Wildlife sanctuaries often exploit and mistreat their animals for the sake of tourism. Considering the importance of Thailand as a U.S. ally, the U.S government should fund Non Government Agencies to help end these problems. In Thailand, the unethical and often illegal treatment of wildlife can be helped by the funding of the Elephant Nature Park and the Wildlife Friends Foundation.

Elephant sanctuaries, while having the appearance of helping animals, often mistreat the elephants to make the tourism experience more exciting. Since 1989, Thailand has suspended commercial logging. Elephants were being used as work animals in the logging industry. With the suspension of logging, half of the 7,000 total elephants in Thailand were left unemployed and were moved to the tourism industry. Unfortunately, many of these tourist attractions are abusive. They often do not provide enough food, water, or shade to humanely sustain life. In fact, in a two year study by World Animal Protection (WAP) found that 77% of elephants in Thailand were inadequately cared for. In addition, to make elephants safe for human interaction they must be trained. From a young age, many elephants are chained up by their feet and beaten with sharp objects to ensure obedience later in life. A sign of this unethical treatment is when elephant bathing or elephant riding is offered, as it would be dangerous for an untrained elephant to participate in such activities. Fortunately, there are organisations such as the Elephant Nature Park trying to help the conditions and practices of these sanctuaries. The Elephant Nature Park is on the forefront of ethical tourism. The park is considered a “retirement home” for rescued elephants and many other species. Goals include conservation of endangered species, rainforest restoration, cultural preservation, and education. The Elephant Nature Park is a wise NGO to invest in because of its valuable conservation efforts and the impact on tourism. Ethical tourism is an up and coming industry, and Thailand will benefit from having more elephant friendly sanctuaries. This is valuable to the United States because the growth of our ally Thailand is largely connected to stability and peace in the region. While there are still many unethical sanctuaries in Thailand, funding the Elephant Nature Park will help promote ethical treatment of elephants and may promote a new industry, which would benefit the Thai economy. 

Poachers and animal traffickers are illegally killing and transporting exotic animals to be sold for profit in forgin countries. Recently, the fate of nearly 150 tigers rescued from a Thai temple made headlines. In 2016, 147 tigers were rescued from Thailand’s “Tiger Temple” in Kanchanaburi Province, west of Bangkok. While investigating the temple for reports of safety hazards, the police found 40 tiger cubs’ remains in a freezer, ready to be sold. This led to all the tigers being confiscated. Recently, these tigers have been dying due to weak immune systems. It was discovered the temple was illegally breeding the tigers and therefore they were inbred. This created weak immune systems, and unfortunately 86 of the 150 tigers have died. These types of situations are not uncommon. While atrocities like this are being committed, there is little law enforcement protecting the wildlife. Many wealthy or powerful men who are found to have been trafficking animals walk away free because of their status. This creates a low-risk, high-financial reward for poaching in Thailand. When wildlife is rescued, the increased need for animal housing burdens sanctuaries. Confiscated animals must be kept for either five years or until the case had been decided according to Thai law. This creates an overwhelming amount of animals needing care and space to live. An NGO trying to fix this problem is the Wildlife Friends Foundation or WFFT. It’s mission is to rescue captive wild animals, campaign against animal abuse and exploitation, educate locals and volunteers, and more. WFFT is considered a leader in rehabilitation and ethical treatment of animals. The U.S. should fund WFFT to help reduce the exploitation of wildlife and promote their rehabilitation efforts. In Thailand, the unethical and often illegal treatment of wildlife such as tigers and elephants can be helped by the funding of the Elephant Nature Park and the Wildlife Friends Foundation.

Erasing a Religion: A How-To by China

Currently the Chinese Communist Party is trying to remove the religion, culture, and beliefs away from the Uighur people in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has forced Uiguhrs into “vocational camps” to try to get them to abandon their way of life. Originally other countries overlooked this violation because there had been many terrorist attacks around the globe as ISIS grew in power. However now that the caliphate has lost its power, the world’s attention has turned to question the treatment of the Uighurs. In 2019, China changed tactics and decided to allow reporters and government officials to tour these camps. Except from reporters from countries trying to appease China, the reporters came to a consensus that the Uighurs were not in camps willingly.

Currently, there are about 1 million Uighurs in these camps. Once in these camps there is no telling when the Uighur can leave, and the Uighur has no contact with the outside world. The Chinese government has called these camps “vocational training centers”, but they have been more appropriately nicknamed “reeducation camps” by the media. Outside of the camps many police officers stop people regularly to check their identification and make sure they have a certain app downloaded on their phones. This app allows the authorities to listen in on phone conversations. Each street has a poster of all the residents with points below their names. These points determine the “reliablity” of the citizen, meaning are they doing anything remotely Muslim: such as reading the Quran, giving money to family overseas, or travelling overseas for any number of reasons. A lower score results in more house searches or being put into a camp. Chinese government officials are forced to stay with Uighur families for at least five nights every two months and are forced to be “members of the family”. The children are questioned during school about their parents’ religion, and if their answer has anything to do with Islam, the parents are put into a camp. Many children have been put into orphanages because their parents have been put into camps. In these orphanages and schools, the teachers attempt to extinguish Uighur culture. One article mentions a long ago attempt at “Hanification”. It failed because the teachers could only educate the children during the day, but at night time the parents taught their children the Uighur culture. Currently the Chinese might have a chance to wipe out Uighurs culture because they have separated the children from the parents. In 2016, China began the “Mosque Rectification Program”. They demolished mosques, shrines, cemeteries, domes, and minarets. The author touches on how mosques are seen by the Uighurs as God’s home, and without these places the Uighurs are “religiously homeless”. They have also been destroying the homes of the Uighurs under the pretense that the building construction is unsafe, but winding streets of Uighur neighborhoods were harder to monitor. The Chinese government also persecutes any Uighur critics inside or out of the country. Radio Free Asia devotes a lot of airtime to the situation in Xinjiang. Uighurs who have escaped Xinjiang are trying to spread awareness about the oppression. In return the Chinese government puts their family members into camps, prison, or Uighurs disappear.

The main issue in solving this crisis is the influence of China. Not many countries want to speak up against China and risk losing trade or money from them. So when, at the United Nations conference, twenty-two countries came together to condemn China for human rights violations, no country took the lead. Then China got thirty-seven countries to side with China and argued that China was doing the right thing to eliminate “terrorists”. The United States could pass the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act to combat the treatment of the Uighurs. This act would mean that the region must be reported on yearly and that a new State Department member be added, solely focusing on the Uighurs. This would embarrass China, but it also might make them respond more readily than a quiet discussion would.