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Myanmar high-level team fails to convince Rohingyas repatriation, agree to continue talks

  • Published at 12:55 am July 29th, 2019

Twelve officials of the Myanmar government and five officials from ASEAN countries as well as officials of the Bangladesh government, who did not take part in the discussions, or attend the meeting

After two-days of meetings, the visiting high-level delegation, led by Permanent Secretary of Myanmar Foreign Ministry Myint Thu, appears to have failed to convince the Rohingyas, who took shelter in Cox’s Bazar to escape brutalities of their own security forces and Buddhist neighbors, to return to their homes in Rakhine.

During the talks on yesterday, the second day at the Kutupalong Rohingya camp-extension 4, Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar, the Rohingya community leaders reiterated that it is not possible for them to return to their homes in Rakhine under the current situation, according to multiple meeting sources.

However, both the sides have agreed to continue discussion on the critical issues including the core one, the citizenship for Rohingyas.

The representatives of about one million persecuted people sheltered in Cox’s Bazar demanded of immediate formal dialogues between the government and Rohingyas that may enable the latter to return home safely with full rights of citizens.

Also Read- Dr Mahathir: Treat Rohingyas as Myanmar nationals or give them their own state

In response, the Myanmar delegation said that they will convey the demands of the Rohingyas to the government in Naypyidaw, and the next course of actions will be determined in accordance with the decision of the government hierarchies.

Twelve officials of the Myanmar government and five officials from ASEAN countries as well as officials of the Bangladesh government, who did not take part in the discussions, or attend the meeting.

No formal agenda or date for any formal dialogue were fixed but both sides have pointed out to the possible areas of discussions and according to many the issue related to the citizenship is going to be the vital issue in the dialogues.

The Rohingya representatives also had a separate meeting with the ASEAN officials and criticized the the bloc for its role so far.

But, they wanted continuous involvement of ASEAN in the future dialogues with the Myanmar government.

The Myanmar team also met the United Nations officials in Cox’s Bazar and the members of Buddhist and Hindu communities who also fled Rakhine. The delegation expressed willingness to take back 444 Hindus.   

Also Read- The first step

Meanwhile, the leader of the Myanmar government delegation categorically said that under the current citizenship law enacted in 1982, the Rohingyas in Bangladesh cannot be granted full-fledged citizenship.

Out of three types of citizenship under the law, they can only apply for naturalized citizens of Myanmar.

“This morning (Sunday) I tried to explain the 1982 citizenship law. According to the citizenship law, there are three categories,” said Permanent Secretary Thu, who is equivalent to Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary, while talking to journalists after the meetings.

The categories are full-fledged citizenship, associate citizenship and naturalized citizenship.  

“The third category applies to those who are here what we call naturalized citizenship,” he said without mentioning either Rohingyas or displaced-Myanmar nationals.

For instance, Thu said that if at least three generations – grandfathers/grandmothers, sons/daughters and grandchildren -- have lived in Myanmar can apply for the naturalized citizenship and once the parents apply for naturalized citizenship their children and their offspring are entitled to apply for citizenship.

He said that they are trying to explain the Rohingyas the procedures of becoming citizens of Myanmar.

“Of course according to the law they may not be entitled to full-fledged citizenship but they are entitled to naturalized citizenship. But, eventually their sons and daughters and their grandsons and granddaughters will be entitled to full-fledged citizenship,” Thu said, adding that eventually there will be no issue of race or citizenship.

About the meetings, the Permanent Secretary said, “We came to Cox’s Bazar on Saturday and met the representatives of various camps. We also had a meeting on Sunday morning. We tried to explain about the preparations for their return. We have in principles agreed to discuss further on three key areas.”

“One is to continue dialogues with them,” he said.

Also Read- Rohingya crisis: Japanese foreign minister to visit refugee camps Tuesday

This time we have brought representatives from the ASEAN who conducted preliminary need assessment in March, said the Myanmar diplomat.

“They also explained what they have experienced in the preliminary need assessment. Next time, we will bring them as well to engage with the communities here,” he said.

“Today, we also met at the UN office here in Cox’s Bazar together with the Hindu community as well as the Christian community. We just met them. We are willing to take back specially 444 people belonging to the Hindu community here,” said Thu.

“We will continue to discuss with the Bangladeshi government here at the ministerial level as well as at the joint working group level. On Sunday, we will be meeting Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry officials in Dhaka, then we will continue to discuss further on the repatriation process,” he said. The Permanent Secretary also said, “There will be a ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA. The two Foreign Ministers will also discuss further on the repatriation process.”

“Next time we will come back with our ASEAN colleagues. We will continue to have dialogues with them and continue to engage with the Bangladeshi Embassy in Yangon and our Embassy here will continue to engage with the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry to immediately commence the repatriation,” he said.

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