• Friday, Dec 09, 2022
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Rohingya repatriation: Beijing to act as bridge for early results

  • Published at 11:59 am June 25th, 2021
File Photo: Over one million Rohingyas live in Bangladesh now since fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Myanmar coup caught everyone by surprise, says the Chinese envoy in Dhaka

Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming has said China will continue to serve as a “bridge of communication” and try its best to facilitate early results as Bangladesh seeks swift repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar.

“We fully understand the keenness of Bangladesh to start repatriation, and our determination to help the two friendly neighbours resolve this long-standing issue will never change,” he said while speaking at an online symposium hosted by the Cosmos Foundation.

While delivering the keynote speech, Ambassador Li said the sudden change in Myanmar earlier this year - the coup in February - everyone by surprise and created some uncertainties over the repatriation process.

Right now, he said, China is closely observing the situation in Myanmar and hoping the country returns to normal soon.

Also read- Myanmar junta leader casts doubt on return of Rohingya

Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan delivered the opening remarks at the symposium titled “Bangladesh-China Relations: Prognosis for the Future,” which premiered on its Facebook page on Thursday evening.

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar, diplomat, and adviser on foreign affairs to the last caretaker government, chaired the session.

Ambassador (retd) Tariq A Karim, CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, former Foreign Secretary Shamsher M Chowdhury, Assistant Researcher of the Institute for International Studies at Yunnan University Dr Zou Yingmeng, Assistant Research Fellow at China Institute of International Studies Dr Ning Shengnan, former Ambassador Serajul Islam and Dhaka University Professor Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir comprised the panel of discussants.

'Myanmar could explode'

Tariq Karim said: “I would request that China support us in our efforts to augment regional and sub-regional cooperation on a number of issues which will have consequences for China, particularly in resolving the Rohingya issue, not just in Bangladesh but particularly in its point of origin where China has the capacity to help us resolve it.”

He said: “I see the flame in the centre of Myanmar. The country seems like it will explode, and the explosion will not leave any country, including China, Bangladesh, India and any of the ASEAN countries, untouched.

“So, I would urge them [China] to look afresh at this and use their influence and make sure that this flame is put out quickly so that their looking west aspirations and our looking east aspirations can actually start moving towards each other,” Tariq Karim said.

A protester holds up a painting of Myanmar's detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to mark her birthday during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on June 19, 2021 - AFP

Referring to Ambassador Li‘s remarks about the Rohingya issue, Shamsher Mubin said Bangladesh had received many promises and assurances of a satisfactory resolution to the issue.

“It’s a humanitarian issue which has a potential of becoming a security issue if it’s not resolved satisfactorily, keeping in mind the dignity, and honour of this community of people who are facing the UN described the textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” he said.

The former diplomat thinks the countries that have the leverage to play the right kind of role in finding a solution should step up and look to finding a peaceful resolution without any further delay.

Rohingya's are victims of geopolitics

He questioned whether the Rohingyas were victims of regional geopolitics and geostrategic interests, in addition to atrocities. “I think this is the question Bangladesh needs to ask the major players in the region very frankly and candidly. It is a humanitarian issue and I think it has to be faced effectively and in a timely manner.”

Shamsher said Bangladesh has a sizable military that is professional, has developed a global character, and is widely respected for its disaster management capabilities and for keeping peace under the United Nations in far off lands.

More recently, he said, Bangladesh has earned universal accolades for readily providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in their home country.

He also said Bangladesh has earned recognition as a responsible neighbour and a regional player by hosting Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

Citing the crisis in the Rakhine state as a complex and historic one, Dr Rashed Titumir said China has defended the Myanmar government.

Also read- UN: Voluntary Rohingya repatriation in short term looks challenging

The analyst said India is also competing for influence in Myanmar and is critical of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China.

Bangladesh has long been exploring ways with the international community to begin repatriation of the Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine state. 

The repatriation, however, could not be commenced in the last four years with two "failed attempts" amid "lack of confidence" among Rohingyas and "lack of conducive environment" in Rakhine State.

Discussions with Myanmar remains halted for a long time amid Covid situation and subsequent military coup in Myanmar.

Bangladesh remains hopeful about the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar despite the military government being in place considering the repatriation that took place in 1978 and 1992 (under military government).

Dhaka calls for clear repatriation roadmap

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen attended a bilateral meeting with Christine S Burgener, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Myanmar at the Bangladesh Permanent Mission in New York recently. During the meeting, he sought a clear roadmap from the United Nations for repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar.

The foreign minister referred to the negative impacts of the prolonged presence of the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar, particularly for the host community, and said it would only deteriorate the overall situation there and create instability in the region and beyond if repatriation does not commence soon.

Bangladesh handed over a list of 840,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for verification, but the verification process by the Myanmar side is very slow, Dhaka said.

Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char.

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