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Rohingya body wants involvement in decision-making

  • Published at 04:41 pm June 19th, 2019
web-makeshift rohingya camp in cox’s Bazar
This photo taken recently shows a makeshift rohingya camp in cox’s Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

All Rohingyas want to return home if the situation is right in Rakhine, says the ARSPHR chief

The Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPHR), a group that claims to fight for the just causes of one of the world’s most persecuted people, has demanded that they have a say in every decision regarding the Rohingyas, especially on repatriation.

While talking to the Dhaka Tribune from Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday, ARSPHR Chairman Mohib Ullah claimed that the repatriation process would have advanced further if the views of the Rohingyas were taken on-board.

He also categorically said Rakhine State is the home of the Rohingyas, and all of them want to go back to Myanmar if the conditions are safe.

“Look, we, the Rohingyas, are the main stakeholders in the Rohingya issue, but we have not been included in any of the decision making. If you look at the agreements so far signed by Bangladesh, Myanmar, and UN agencies, there was no involvement of the Rohingyas,” Mohib Ullah said, claiming that ARSPHR, currently based in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya upazila, speaks for all Rohingyas both in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Criticizing the international community, especially the United Nations system, he said: “As far as the international community is concerned, we simply do not exist. You cannot just get a solution without including the very people you are working for in the discussions. There will be no repatriation without us.

“We just want to work with everyone to find a solution to the problem. That is all,” he added, alleging that the international community is not exerting enough pressure to force the Myanmar government to take back its people. 

In response to a question, Mohib Ullah said: “All the Rohingyas want to return home to Rakhine if the situation is right. Bangladesh is not our home. Myanmar is our home. We want to go back to our homes as soon as possible.”

In response to another question, the ASPHR chief said the organization does not have any ties with separatist or extremist entities. “The objective of our organization is to seek justice and rights, no more than that.”

Praising Bangladesh and the host community in Cox’s Bazar, Mohibullah said: “We are grateful to Bangladesh. We are particularly grateful to the host communities, as they are suffering due to our presence.” 

When asked if the Rohingyas are willing to be relocated to Bhashan Char, he said most of them prefer to stay where they are now as they know little about the island.

ARSPHR thanks PM Hasina

Meanwhile, the ARSPHR, which moved to Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar in 2017 after the latest exodus due to unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from other groups in Rakhine, has thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her comments on the Myanmar government’s negligence in taking back the Rohingyas. 

On June 9, upon return from her foreign tour, the prime minister said: “The Myanmar government has not done enough to prove they are ready to accept the Rohingyas returning home.” 

International community criticized

In a statement on Tuesday, the ARSPHR demanded that the international community increase pressure on Myanmar to ensure that Rakhine State is safe for the return of the Rohingyas.

ARSPHR also mentioned that it wrote a letter to the head of the government, saying they do not want to stay in Bangladesh for long. 

“The international community has lost its focus and is too distracted by humanitarian issues in the refugee camps,” said the statement, adding that they did not think that enough pressure is being put on Myanmar leaders to make the repatriation process possible.

“We keep hearing them say that Rohingya refugees will be in Bangladesh [for] a very long time. This is not what we want. Bangladesh is not our home. We do not want to stay in refugee camps in Bangladesh forever,” the statement said.

“The unwillingness the Myanmar government to take responsibility for Rohingyas' safe return is barring them from returning to their homes in Rakhine,” it added.

“We think this is because the international community does not really care about what Rohingya refugees want. They are not really listening to us,” the statement further said. “We know this is not an easy situation for Rohingya refugees and host communities [in Cox’s Bazar]. This situation is not sustainable.”

ASPHR said they want to work together with the government for safe and dignified repatriation.

A UN report on Monday said the United Nations had "systemic failures" in its handling of the situation in Myanmar leading up to the 2017 mass exodus of Rohingyas.

The findings were disclosed after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in February, ordered the internal review of the world body's operations in Myanmar, after its officials in the country were accused of ignoring warning signs of the attacks against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

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