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Dhaka to reach out to global leaders at UNGA with Rohingya issue

  • Published at 12:18 pm September 25th, 2020
Rohingya camp
FILE PHOTO: Bangladesh now hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingyas after nearly 700,000 crossed into the country from Myanmar following the 2017 brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State to join the Rohingyas who were already in the country Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017, but not a single Rohingya has returned to Myanmar till now

Bangladesh will bring the unresolved Rohingya crisis before the global leaders on Saturday apparently reminding everybody of the failure to find a durable solution to the crisis amid Myanmar's non-fulfilment of repatriation pledge, according to officials.

Bangladesh will also seek genuine efforts from the global community to help Rohingyas return to their place of origin in Myanmar's Rakhine State, they said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to deliver her key speech (pre-recorded) at the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at 8pm on Saturday.

The global leaders are staying home and joining the various sessions of the UNGA virtually due to Covid-19.

"Bangladesh will raise the Rohingya issue in the 75th UNGA. Bangladesh will seek continuation of global efforts to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis," Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had placed a five-point proposal in the 72nd UNGA seeking a solution to the Rohingya problem immediately after the start of ethnic atrocities against Rohingyas in Myanmar since August 25, 2017, but the proposal remains largely unaddressed.

The international community appreciated the proposal placed by the prime minister, a senior official told UNB, adding that Bangladesh still sticks to the proposal.

This year, Bangladesh will also highlight the accountability issue, especially the ongoing legal procedures at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Bangladesh says the Rohingya problem has been created by Myanmar and the solution also lies with Myanmar, and Myanmar’s stability and economic growth could be negatively affected if the Rohingya problem is not resolved.

Despite a severe threat to its economy, ecology, and overall societal impact, Bangladesh has given shelter, on a humanitarian ground, to nearly 1.1 million persecuted people fleeing massacre in Myanmar, their homeland. 

Trust deficit remains 

Not a single Rohingya has gone back to Myanmar for lack of confidence and trust deficit between the persecuted Rohingya and the Myanmar government. 

To improve the confidence, Bangladesh suggested Myanmar many options, for example, ‘go and visit’, allowing Rohingya leaders to visit Rakhine province or allowing non-military civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries like ASEAN+, or China, Russia, India, or any country of their choice so that Rohingyas feel assured of their safety and security, Dr Momen said.

Alternately, Bangladesh requested Myanmar officials to come and talk to their displaced Rohingya people for confidence building.

“Unfortunately, Myanmar is yet to respond to our suggestions,” Dr Momen said, adding, “Bangladesh is keen on solving the crisis through constructive diplomacy with good neighbourly spirit.” 

"Myanmar is our friendly country and, therefore, Bangladesh signed three instruments with Myanmar for repatriation. Myanmar had agreed to take them back after verification," said the Foreign Minister. 

Myanmar had also agreed to create a conducive environment for their voluntary repatriation and they agreed to ensure safety and security of the displaced people. 

"But, unfortunately, till today, no one went back. Instead of a conducive environment, fighting and shelling is ongoing in the Rakhine State," said Dr Momen.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh's fear is that, if this problem persists, it may lead to pockets of radicalism since terrorists have no borders, no faith. “There’s a high possibility of great uncertainty to be created in the region which may frustrate our hope for a peaceful, secure, and stable region.” 

Attempts to send back Rohingyas to Myanmar failed twice amid trust deficit among Rohingyas.

Recalling five-point proposal

Bangladesh believes the Rohingya crisis could be resolved through the implementation of the five-point proposal the prime minister had placed in the UNGA in September 2017.

The five points are Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State immediately and forever.

The UN secretary general should immediately send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar.

All civilians, irrespective of religion and ethnicity, must be protected in Myanmar. For that, "safe zones" could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision.

Sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar must be ensured.

The recommendations of the Kofi Annan commission report must be immediately implemented unconditionally and in its entirety.

Myanmar questioned

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, has questioned Myanmar for not fulfilling its commitment over Rohingya repatriation.

"Where is justice for those stranded in refugee camps in Bangladesh while facilities are constructed on their homeland for the same military that stands accused at the International Court of Justice for committing genocide against them?" he said.

Citing Myanmar’s statement to the Human Rights Council last week that “commencement of repatriation is our priority”, Andrews asked: “But what does repatriation mean for those who once lived in Kan Kya? How can they be integrated into their place of origin when it has become a military base?”

“Impunity and human rights cannot coexist,” Andrews said.

Citing the videotaped confessions of two Tatmadaw defectors to massacres, rape, and other against Rohingya Muslims in August 2017, he urged the government of Myanmar to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.

Andrews also referenced the ICJ that is assessing Myanmar’s compliance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar has called for an immediate ceasefire in Rakhine State, decrying the death toll of innocent children that continues to rise.

“Serious questions have been raised about whether these children, and growing numbers of others, are being caught in the crossfire of war, or are being deliberately targeted,” he said.

These assaults need to stop and that the secretary general’s call for a ceasefire must be heeded immediately, said Andrews.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has expressed Dhaka’s frustration in the UN’s failure to ensure the repatriation of the Rohingya people to Myanmar. “We’re deeply frustrated," he said.

Voices of diplomats

Representatives of the international community in Bangladesh visited Cox’s Bazar and the Rohingya camps on September 23-24.

The delegation members were Ambassador of the United States Earl Miller, European Union Ambassador Rensje Teerink, United Nations Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson, World Bank Country Director Mercy Tembon, and Canada’s Head of Humanitarian Aid Phedra Moon Morris.

Ambassador Miller said the Rohingya crisis remains an important priority for the United States just as it is for Bangladesh and their other international partners, and even more so in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We continue working toward solutions and the safe, voluntary, and dignified repatriation of refugees to Myanmar," he said.

The delegation commended Bangladesh’s generosity in hosting the Rohingya population and agreed that returns must be voluntary, safe, and dignified.

The delegation reiterated that the solution to this crisis lay in Myanmar and that is required for the root causes of the crisis to be addressed. 

Holding perpetrators of the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Rakhine State to account would contribute to giving the Rohingyas the confidence to return home, the delegation said.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.

On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

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