Japan’s Effective Support In Resolving The Rohingya Crisis


More than 700,000 Rohingyas took refuge in Bangladesh after the military operation carried out by Myanmar Army in Rakhine began on August 25, 2017.

Currently, about 1.2 million Rohingyas are staying in various camps in Bangladesh. In the beginning of the crisis in 2017, the Japanese government allocated US $4 million as humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas. In the same year, Japan provided $15.7 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to Rohingya children, women and vulnerable locals.

This much-needed support enabled UNICEF to run its operations smoothly during the first 6 months of the crisis, and the organization expressed its gratitude to the Japanese government and people at the time. In January 2018, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono urged Myanmar to take back Rohingyas who had escaped atrocities and taken refuge in Bangladesh.

At that time Japan allocated three million US dollars to the Myanmar government for the rehabilitation of the Rohingyas. The Japanese government and people will continue to work to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar, while providing the necessary assistance. Japan is always ready to assist the Myanmar authorities in implementing the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission to establish peace and stability in Rakhine State. In 2019, Japan provided $99.2 million in humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas and the local population of Cox’s Bazar.

The Japanese government has always stood by Bangladesh in resolving the crisis. Japan believes that the resolution of the crisis can only be achieved through a safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas to Rakhine. It is essential for Myanmar to create favorable conditions in Rakhine State for the repatriation of Rohingyas.

Japan urged the Myanmar government to take “stronger measures” for the quick repatriation of the Rohingyas and the Japanese government will continue to communicate this request to Myanmar authorities until the issue is resolved.

In 2019, Japan offered to mediate between Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya issue and expressed to contribute to continuing the dialogue between the two countries. Japan wants a quick and sustainable solution to the Rohingya issue, finding their prolonged stay worrisome.

Japan is keen to assist the ongoing talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar to expedite the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Both Bangladesh and Myanmar have economic relations with Japan. Japan attaches importance to relations with both countries. As a development partner, Japan is interested in supporting Bangladesh and Myanmar in resolving this problem. Japan has extensive investments in both countries. More than 310 Japanese companies are contributing to the development of Bangladesh. Out of a sense of responsibility and moral ground, Japan has been working silently since the beginning of the Rohingya problem and has been active in solving it. The Japanese ambassadors in Bangladesh have visited Rohingya camps many times in the last six years.

The Japanese people are continuing to work to find a permanent and sustainable solution to the problem at individual, organizational, and government levels. The people of Japan, various organizations, and the Japanese government continue to support the Rohingya camps by providing basic goods and services. The Japanese government is continuing to communicate with the Myanmar government and various international organizations like ASEAN and G-7 to resolve the issues of the citizenship of Rohingyas, repatriation, and other related issues diplomatically. Japan wants a durable solution to the protracted Rohingya crisis and is ready to provide the assistance necessary assistance to Bangladesh in this regard.

The massive presence of Rohingyas has caused problems for the local population of Cox’s Bazar. Japan considers the resolution of the Rohingya issue very important for the peace and stability of the South Asian region. Implementation of a ‘Free Indo-Pacific’ will help achieve peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. Japan will stand by Bangladesh to resolve the Rohingya issue and work for the speedy repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar. On November 22, 2022, Japan and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) signed a $3.7 million agreement to support Rohingyas in Bhasan Char. The money will be spent on the safety of women of various ages sheltered in Bhasan Char and the empowerment of adolescents and youth. Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Takei Shunsuke expressed that sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas must wait for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar.

Currently, the Rohingyas became a burden to Bangladesh. Every day their number is increasing with new children born in the camps. Many of the Rohingyas are involved in drug and arms trafficking. not a single Rohingya has been repatriated to Myanmar in the last six years. As the repatriation efforts have repeatedly failed, the government of Bangladesh has been urging developed countries to relocate Rohingyas from Bangladesh to a third country. Outgoing Ambassador of Japan Ito Naoki said that Japan is considering resettling some Rohingyas in Japan. In 2022, Japan provided US $ 27.8 million to Rohingyas and local communities in Bangladesh, compared to US $ 50 million in 2021. Japan is trying its best to alleviate the living conditions of the Rohingyas inside the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char.

Due to the unsafe situation in Rakhine, Rohingya repatriation is not possible now. Japan’s ‘special representative’ Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Peace Foundation Yohei Sasakawa mediated to end the fighting that continued from July 2022 between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army in Rakhine. After that, the two warring factions agreed to a ceasefire. As a result, apparent peace now prevails in the Rakhine region. Yohei Sasakawa has been working towards ‘national unity’ between the Myanmar government and the armed groups from various regions there. In 2019, the ceasefire in Arakan was also possible through mediation by Sasakawa. In 2020, the Japanese government sent him to Myanmar as the head of the election observation team. The Arakan Army’s relationship with the NLD was strained at the time, but through Sasakawa’s mediation, the election in Arakan was held smoothly. This suggests Sasakawa’s acceptance in Rakhine’s political arena and with the Myanmar military. Japan will continue to cooperate with the government of Bangladesh to stabilize the situation in the Rakhine state and will do its best to improve the political situation in Myanmar.

Newly appointed Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Iwama Kiminori reiterated Japan’s continued efforts to resolve the Rohingya issue. Since 2017, Japan has provided more than 175 million US dollars in various supportive activities in Cox’s Bazar as well as Bhasan Char through international organizations and NGOs. These include food, health care, water sanitation hygiene (WASH), shelter, protection and gender-based support. A $4.5 million agreement was signed on February 22 between the Government of Japan and UNHCR to continue the necessary protection and humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas in Bangladesh. This support will increase the skill development activities of the Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char, as a result of which the Rohingyas will be able to reduce their dependence on the declining humanitarian aid. In addition, vulnerable women of the local community will also get training in making various handicrafts and be exposed to income generating opportunities.

In Bhasan Char, UNHCR will work to expand education and livelihood activities for the Rohingyas with this support from Japan. The Government of Japan has so far provided more than US$204 million in aid to UNHCR and other UN agencies and NGOs in Bangladesh. The Japanese government has decided to provide 5.7 million US dollars to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to improve the shelter and living conditions of the Rohingyas and local communities in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char, Bangladesh.

Japan will cooperate with IOM and other international organizations to ensure better living conditions for the Rohingyas and local communities. Continued support from the Government of Japan will help IOM provide life-saving assistance to the Rohingyas and local communities in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char. This assistance will ensure better settlement, protection and provision of livelihood opportunities.

The Site Management and Site Development (SMSD) project will improve the living conditions of Rohingyas in Bhasan Char and empower Rohingya women and youth to become self-reliant by creating better employment opportunities. Japan has provided more than US$200 million to NGOs in Bangladesh as well as IOM and other UN agencies. Japan can help implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission to improve the socioeconomic conditions of the Rakhine. As a result, the quality of life of the poverty-stricken Rakhine people will improve and the ongoing discrimination between the Rohingya and Rakhine living in the Rakhine state will be reduced. This will help in improving the relationship between the two communities residing there for centuries. Nippon Foundation has successfully played the role in dealing with the recent humanitarian situation in Rakhine. The organization and its chairman are popular and accepted by the Chin and Rakhine people. By this, they can contribute to the development of the ongoing situation by building a bond of harmony between the Rohingya and the Rakhine. If suitable employment can be created in Rakhine, the current unstable situation can be improved. For this purpose, if the Rohingyas staying in the camps in Bangladesh are given self-employment training, they can go back and play a role in the development of Rakhine. If the Rohingya problem lingers, Japan may assist the Bangladesh government in relocating the Rohingyas to Bhasan Char to control the deteriorating situation in the camps in Cox’s Bazar. By constructing new infrastructure in Bhasan Char, Japan, and international organizations can support Bangladesh government in relocation process and contribute significantly to improving the security situation in the camps in Cox’s Bazar by reducing the pressure. As the Rohingya crisis enters its sixth year, the oppressed population faces an uncertain future due to ongoing global issues. Japan as well as the international community should continue to provide necessary support to the Rohingyas. So far, the actions taken by Japan are commendable and it is hoped that in the future Japan’s active participation will continue in resolving the Rohingya crisis.

– Brig Gen (Retd) Hasan Md Shamsuddin, ndc, psc, afwc, Mphil, is a Lead Researcher for the Rohingya, Myanmar and ASEAN Affairs at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in Fresh Angle International [Link]