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Myanmar fails to take back Rohingyas two years after signing agreement

  • Published at 08:02 pm November 21st, 2019
File photo: Rohingya refugees stretch their hands to receive aid distributed by local organisations at Balukhali makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017 Reuters

According to the agreement, the repatriation should have begun within two months of inking the deal meaning

Two years have passed by since Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a bilateral agreement on the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas sheltered in Cox’s Bazar, but not a single persecuted person from Rakhine is yet to return home due to the unwillingness of Myanmar.

Immediate past foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and Kyaw Tint Swe, a minister attached with the office of Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the country, signed the instrument titled “Arrangement of Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State” on November 23 in Naypyitaw. 

According to the agreement, the repatriation should have begun within two months of inking the deal meaning, by January 22, 2018 and Myanmar was supposed to ensure a favourable condition for the return of the Rohingyas, who fled to Bangladesh in October, 2016 and August, 2017.

Had Naypyitaw honoured the deal, most of the Rohingyas would have returned to their homes by now.

Following the signing of the deal a foreign secretary-level joint working group was formed and two instruments were signed subsequently. Bangladesh has so far provided Myanmar with a list of over 100,000 Rohingyas for verification. 

Despite well intention of Bangladesh all along this long period, Myanmar was never seen interested to take their people back. But there has been no real effort from Myanmar in terms of taking the persecuted Rohingyas back to that country.

During the last two years, two attempts – one in November, 2018 and the other on August 22, this year, were made to begin the repatriation without any success as the Myanmar authorities failed to earn the trust of Rohingyas, which led the persecuted people to express unwillingness to return to a condition that is not verified.

For quite a while now, Bangladesh has been proposing to Myanmar to take some Rohingya leaders to Rakhine for them to certify the condition and to deploy civilian officials from ASEAN and other countries so that returnees can feel that there are people to monitor the situation. 

But, Myanmar is not responding to the Bangladeshi proposals. 

According to foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, the proposal of sending Rohingya community leaders was initially put forward by Beijing at the tripartite meeting among Bangladesh, Myanmar and China on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly in September.

But there is no visible effort on part of Myanmar to begin the repatriation while Bangladesh has been always ready.      

When contacted, senior government officials sounded extremely frustrated at the way things have stalled due to the “deceptive” attitude of Myanmar.

“I’ve nothing new to say. Myanmar is an extremely difficult country to deal with as it never sticks to its words and changes goal posts from time to time,” a top government official told Dhaka tribune.

“It’s really frustrating,” he said.

The officials, however, see a ray of hope following the filing of a case by Gambia at the International Court of Justice, the authorization of the International Criminal Court to conduct a full investigation on the mass deportation of the Rohingyas and lodging another case in Argentina.

They believe these actions will put pressure on Myanmar to take their people back home.

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