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Rohingya repatriation deal: Nothing in sight even a year after passage of deadline

  • Published at 01:34 am January 31st, 2019
File photo: Hundreds of Rohingya refugees shout slogans as they protest against their repatriation at the Unchiprang camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh November 15, 2018 Reuters

Myanmar’s utter failure to honour deal responsible, say top officials

More than a year has gone past the deadline for the Rohingya repatriation in accordance with the deal signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar; but no signs of any development steps can be seen to the return of hundreds of thousands of persecuted people to their homes in Rakhine.

The Rohingyas, who had to cross into Bangladesh to escape the unprecedented brutalities by the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from different ethnic groups in Rakhine, could not return their homes due to the utter failure of the government in Naypyitaw to honor the agreement signed between the two countries on January 23, 2017.   

The then Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and Kyauw Tint Swe, a minister attached to the office of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, signed the deal titled 'Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from the Rakhine State' in Naypyitaw.

According to the deal, the repatriation process was to commence within two months after the signing of the instrument and the Myanmar government was expected to take all necessary measures to create a favorable condition for the return of over 7-8 lakh Rohingyas, who fled to Bangladesh after the violent crackdown on these people in August, 2017 and about 80,000 after October, 2016. The deal did not cover the 3-4 lakh Rohingyas, who have been living in Bangladesh for decades.  

Following the signing of the deal, there have been numerous meetings between Bangladesh and Myanmar and visits from both countries, but nothing has happened apart from a failed attempt to begin the repatriation on November 15, 2018.

Instead of creating a conducive environment for the return of the Rohingyas, the Myanmar security forces are actually creating a situation to force the remaining Rohingyas out of Rakhine, top officials of the government and United Nations officials told the Dhaka Tribune.   

Top officials of the government do not see any change of the  limp situation in the near future, and they remain clueless about prospect of any repatriation taking place anytime soon.

“I know the situation, you know the situation, the whole world knows the situation. We just got stuck. We cannot move as long as Myanmar does not want to,” a top Foreign Ministry official told this correspondent.

“We are just hoping that Myanmar will live up to its pledges by taking its own people back home,” he said.

“There is nothing new to talk about,” said Abul Kalam, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner based in Cox’s Bazar.  

“We are doing our preparatory work so when time comes we can conduct the repatriation activities smoothly,” said the Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.

“We are trying as hard as we can to persuade Myanmar to make favorable conditions for the Rohingyas. We also officially wrote to them in this regard, but, they appear to be unmoved,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official.

“Myanmar is a difficult country to deal with. They never honor their word,” he said.

To a question, he added that Bangladesh has no choice but to keep engaged with Myanmar on the issue of repatriation.

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