Intensifying Pressure On Myanmar Military To Take Back Rohingyas From Bangladesh – OpEd


In 2017, about 1.2 million Rohingyas who escaped from the persecution of Myanmar forces are staying in 33 camps and Bhasanchar in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar. It has not been possible to send even one Rohingya back to Myanmar in the last six years.

Bangladesh signed an agreement with Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya in November 2017. In 2018, repatriation efforts by Bangladesh and Myanmar failed. Repatriation initiative was taken again in 2019 through the mediation of China, but it was not implemented. As a result, the repatriation process was at a standstill for the last six years. The process of repatriating Rohingyas to Rakhine on a small scale was supposed to start from 2020, but since it has not started, China has been pressuring Myanmar. ASEAN countries were also continuing their efforts to initiate small-scale repatriation to address the Rohingya issue.

Recently, Myanmar has taken the initiative to take back more than 1000 Rohingyas from Bangladesh under the pilot project. As part of this, diplomats from eight countries including Bangladesh, India, China and some ASEAN countries posted in Myanmar were taken to Rakhine on March 8. 11 diplomats from 8 countries were shown around the interim camps in Maungdu and Sittwe, Myanmar. The diplomats are on a visit to Myanmar’s Rakhine state to show the progress of preparations for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees who have taken refuge in Bangladesh. They have been told that Myanmar wants to start the Rohingya repatriation process as soon as possible. According to diplomatic sources, Myanmar has taken this initiative under pressure from China.

Diplomats returning from Rakhine reported that the ongoing situation in Rakhine is slightly better now compared to 2018-2020. Rohingyas in an internally displaced (IDP) camp near Sittwe, Myanmar are now getting access to the town of Sittwe, where Rohingyas were previously not allowed to leave the camp. According to the published data, the Rohingyas are getting limited access to education and health care which was not available until now. The ambassadors visited the renovation of the interim camp built five years ago in the village of Nakuya on the banks of the Naf River. All the Rohingyas who will be taken back through the Naf River will be kept in this camp for the first few days. Then they will be shifted to Lapukha Camp in Mangdu. They will stay there for a month and finally they will be permanently transferred to the camps under construction near Mangdu and Sitwe. The diplomats were also shown the camp of IDPs who have been living in Chokpeu area since 2012. They were told that these camps would be closed and the displaced Rohingyas would be permanently relocated to nearby villages. Chokpiu is an important area with Chinese-invested oil companies and a deep-sea port.

According to the information obtained from various media, the situation in Rakhine is currently good. A few months ago, the Arakan Army was at war with the Myanmar military in Rakhine. Later, through the mediation of Nippon Foundation Chairman Sasakawa, there is a temporary ceasefire and apparent peace prevails. In this situation, the repatriation can be started by taking thousands of Rohingya back to Myanmar. If the repatriation starts, the international pressure on the military government of Myanmar will decrease a little and the acceptance of the military government will increase a little. thinks Myanmar will have to present their arguments in the Rohingya Genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on April 24. Many believe that the ICJ may have a relationship with this repatriation initiative. Through this initiative, the Myanmar government will inform the ICJ that they are taking steps to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

A list of 888,000 Rohingyas was given to Myanmar by Bangladesh government in 2018 with the aim of repatriating Rohingyas. After verifying the list provided by Bangladesh, Myanmar announced to take back about 70,000 Rohingyas. In January 2022, 1140 people were initially selected for family-based repatriation from that list as part of a pilot project. Among them, Myanmar agreed to repatriate 711 Rohingyas. A 17-member delegation headed by Aung Myew, Regional Director of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maungdu, visited Bangladesh on March 15 to verify their information as they had objections to the remaining 429. The delegation left Bangladesh on March 22 after verifying the information by interviewing 429 Rohingyas in seven days.

Myanmar plans to begin repatriation by taking back 1,500 Rohingya under a pilot project. They will try to show that they are serious about repatriation through this project. A little over 1000 Rohingyas will be taken back under family-based repatriation. Myanmar’s Deputy Minister of Information Major General Zaw Min Tun said the pilot program on Rohingya repatriation could begin in mid-April. The Myanmar government has undertaken a pilot project to build 15 new villages on 750 plots to house the Rohingya. Rohingyas repatriated from Bangladesh will first be kept in Hla Pho Khaung Interim Camp for two months. From there, they will be sent to these new villages after being verified at Taung Pyo Letwe and Nagar Khu Ya camps in Maungdoo. On March 23, Myanmar announced plans to repatriate another 5,000 Rohingya if the pilot project is successfully implemented. Rohingyas who have taken refuge in Bangladesh want to return to their villages in Myanmar. But they are not interested in repatriation if they cannot go back to their village. They will return to Myanmar if they are guaranteed citizenship rights, freedom of travel or equal rights with other nationalities.

After assessing the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, UNHCR said that the situation there is not favorable for the sustainable return of the Rohingyas. Regarding the visit of the Myanmar delegation to Bangladesh under a bilateral pilot project between Bangladesh and Myanmar, the UNHCR said that they are not involved in the discussions between Bangladesh and Myanmar about the possible repatriation of the Rohingyas. UNHCR says it is working with Myanmar to repatriate Rohingya in Rakhine. They will continue to work with Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure that Rohingyas participate in voluntary repatriation. UNHCR will support efforts to create favorable conditions for the sustainable repatriation of Rohingya in Rakhine State, Myanmar. UNHCR will continue to support the repatriation of Rohingyas in Bangladesh and their skills and capacity building.

Many of the Rohingya who have been vetted are reportedly not interested in returning to Myanmar right now. They are not confident enough to return to Myanmar. The Rohingyas in Myanmar are doing well there and they will return to Myanmar themselves if the Rohingyas there assure them of the end of the Myanmar army’s atrocities. Displaced Rohingya living in camps in Myanmar are living inhumane lives. Due to the ongoing violence, the UN and other aid organizations are not able to properly carry out the relief operations in Myanmar. The Rohingyas are in a miserable condition there. In order to get out of this situation, arrangements must be made to start the relief operations in all those camps immediately. Myanmar did not involve the UN and international organizations in this pilot project. These organizations have been providing relief to the Rohingya for the past six years. The UN has said the situation in Rakhine is not conducive to repatriation. Without relief aid, the Rohingya are likely to fall back into a humanitarian disaster.

Many people think that it was necessary to keep them in this initiative. The Rohingyas in Bangladesh have been demanding several times that they will not return to Myanmar if they do not get citizenship. Myanmar has not said anything about the Rohingya’s citizenship, and it is unclear whether its attitude towards the Rohingya has changed. In the current context, there is no progress information on the acceptance of Rohingya in Rakhine. The Arakan Army has said it considers the Rohingyas its own people, but they are not known to be involved in the project. At the same time, little is known about the steps taken to change hostile attitudes against the Rohingya, and there is no clear indication of a change in political will.

Rohingya rights groups say repatriation without citizenship recognition risks a repeat of the same incident. Myanmar has said it will relocate the Rohingyas to newly built villages after taking them back but the Rohingyas want to return to their home villages. The resettlement of the Rohingyas staying in the camps in Myanmar to their previous homes and villages will create an environment of trust among the Rohingyas in Bangladesh and the Rohingyas will return to Myanmar voluntarily and as a result The overall repatriation process is expected to be sustainable.

The Rohingya problem is weighing on Bangladesh. The current global crisis is likely to divert the attention of the international community from the Rohingya crisis. Due to the financial crisis, the budget for the Rohingya has been reduced. Apart from this, due to the deterioration of the law-and-order situation in the Rohingya camps, security threats are being created. In this current situation, Bangladesh wants the repatriation of Rohingyas to start, even if the number is small. The Government of Bangladesh is keen to continue with emphasis on sustainable repatriation, and Bangladesh expects Myanmar’s active cooperation in this regard. This initiative taken by Myanmar for the repatriation of Rohingya is positive. It is hoped that the Myanmar government will continue this program through a sustainable plan, assuring the Rohingyas of their safety and rehabilitation.

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