Myanmar Junta Must Not Betray Bangladesh On Rohingya Issue This Time – OpEd


The latest move by Myanmar’s military junta to show its readiness to repatriate the Rohingyas to diplomats from Bangladesh, India, China and ASEAN countries is shocking. Diplomats from these countries were taken to Maungdoo and Sittwe in Rakhine State on March 9. They are told that the Myanmar government wants to start the repatriation process soon.

Of course, they did not give any date, but suddenly sent a delegation to Cox’s Bazar to verify the citizenship of more than a thousand Rohingyas. Later it came to be known that the Chinese government also has some role behind this initiative and the Chinese ambassador in Dhaka publicly expressed his government’s support in this process.

It must be recalled that in November 2017, within three months of the expulsion of the Rohingya from Rakhine, the then civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh to repatriate displaced Myanmar nationals in their language.

Even then, China encouraged Myanmar to sign the agreement. Since then, every time China has voted against it, or abstained (perhaps once) at the UN and other international forums, condemning the Myanmar government for the Rohingya genocide and their expulsion from Myanmar, and trying to take diplomatic measures against them.

In a discussion on the impact of the ‘Burma Act’, Myanmar’s NUG Minister of Health and Education Professor Zaw Wai Soe expressed gratitude to the US government for passing the Burma Act. He, however, called for multilateral cooperation to deal with the current conflict without relying on a single superpower.

Many security analysts in Bangladesh are now concerned that support given to Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups could harm Bangladesh’s security. US State Department Counselor Derek Shole assured in his recent visit to Dhaka that no such thing will happen. Recent unrest and some incidents of violence and vandalism in Rohingya camps indicate that the situation is getting worse. Although there are various, sometimes conflicting statements about the responsibility of these incidents.

Meanwhile, the aid of the international community for the Rohingya refugees is also decreasing to an alarming level. The World Food Programme, WFP, has decided to cut food aid allocations for refugees by 17 percent per capita. British MP Rushnara Ali, who visited Dhaka a few days ago, claimed in one of her questions in the House of Commons that in 2017, as much money as Britain paid for the Rohingyas, it has been reduced by 80 percent in the last year. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs did not give a clear answer to the question why the aid has decreased so much and whether it will increase or not. The situation for the Rohingya is unlikely to improve any time soon, given the rate at which aid demand elsewhere has increased due to displacement from the Russia-Ukraine war and other disasters.

Bangladesh is understandably looking forward to the start of Rohingya repatriation. But the question is, is Myanmar’s current initiative sincere and part of the real solution? Or some kind of trick for a special purpose? Bangladesh has long ago listed more than 800,000 Rohingyas awaiting repatriation. Why is it necessary to pilot with thousands of refugees?

What is the rationale for interviewing the listed Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar where the name-address verification is supposed to be done in Myanmar? More than 600,000 Rohingyas who are internally displaced in various camps in Myanmar, why are they not trying to gain the trust of the rest by rehabilitating them? Why is the United Nations organization UNHCR not being involved in this process? They are saying that suitable environment for repatriation has not been created. Rohingya rights groups also say repatriation without citizenship recognition risks a repeat of the same incident.

At the hearing of Gambia’s genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), I heard Myanmar cite bilateral agreements with Bangladesh to claim that a court order on Myanmar would impede repatriation. The ICJ did not accept that argument. But the dissenting judge accepted the argument. Myanmar has to submit its response by April 24 against the detailed request submitted by Gambia in that case. Isn’t the alleged experimental (pilot) repatriation a ploy to mislead the court?

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