US sanctions against Bangladesh are a cause for worry

The sanctions can cause severe economic damage to Bangladesh's development projects

Rakib Al Hasan Dec 28, 2021
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Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel gather in a Dhaka street (Photo: Benarnews)

For the first time, Bangladeshi is facing US sanctions. The United States has imposed sanctions on seven former and current Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officials for alleged human rights abuses. In addition, it has imposed sanctions against the RAB as an organization. The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on 15 individuals and 10 organizations in various countries for rights violations. Seven of them are from Bangladesh, including the national police chief. 

Bangladesh was not included in the 110 countries at the US President's Democracy Summit. The US action was akin to a thunderbolt for the Bangladesh government. Why is this ban a cause for concern?

The most worrying and serious issue is the image of Bangladesh. This ban is fatally damaging and frustrating. In future, Bangladesh will be clubbed with North Korea, China, Russia, Iran and other countries with serious rights violations. This is undoubtedly shameful and extremely sad. The ban could require a new geopolitical settlement, which is related to the stability of the country. At any moment, it can create a volatile situation.

Ban is a blow  

The ban on the RAB officers could have a profound effect on Bangladesh's forces. Since most RAB officers come from the police and army, its negative effects can be felt in these two organizations as well. Many will now lose interest in going to the RAB – an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit -- fearing future sanctions. Even newcomers will be afraid to take a job in RAB.  

One of the best achievements of Bangladesh in the 50 years of independence is to maintain its top position as a country sending peacekeepers to UN missions. At present about 6,500 members are employed. This ban on RAB will have a serious impact on the peacekeeping missions. The US would want that in the future no human rights violators should be brought into the peacekeeping force.  

Bangladeshi security forces buy weapons and equipment mainly from Western countries. Due to the sanctions, the possibility of purchasing these may get over.  

Economy to be hit 

The effects of the US embargo could be felt on the economy as well. Bangladesh's foreign export market is almost dependent on the US. The major buyers of readymade garments are America and the European garment companies owned by them. A large part of our economy comes from the garment industry. The sanctions may fall on this golden deer as well.  

The sanctions can cause severe economic damage to Bangladesh's development projects in terms of raising foreign loans and availing easy interest rates. Individuals will no longer be able to enter the US and its powerful allies because of the sanctions. It is rumored that the names of more people will be revealed step by step and the list of bans will gradually get bigger.  

The Rohingya crisis is a major problem. The US is Bangladesh's only trusted ally in finding a lasting solution to the issue. In addition, the US and its allies have provided at least $500 million in aid to the Rohingya in recent years. This ban could affect the Rohingya issue too. 

If this ban continues, the situation will get worse for Bangladesh. Many countries would like to keep Bangladesh in isolation on the pretext of sanctions. It will be difficult to get out of this cycle if effective democracy does not return to the country.

(The writer is an activist and award-winning youth leader in Bangladesh. The views expressed are personal) 

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