Why Myanmar delegates in Bangladesh? By Sufian Siddique


A 22-member delegation from Myanmar has reached Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar to observe the preparations for the repatriation of Rohingyas.

They arrived at Teknaf Jetty Ghat by speed boat across the Naf River after 10am on Wednesday from Maungdaw Township in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

Officials of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Office as well as BGB and law enforcement personnel welcomed them at that time.

Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammed Mizanur Rahman said the delegation will meet with the officials of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation office and exchange views with a team of Rohingyas. 

The delegation will verify the list of Rohingyas willing to return to Myanmar. They will also visit Rohingya camps, he said. 

More than 1,000 Rohingya could be taken back under family-based repatriation initially, including hundreds of Rohingyas from the Hindu communities.

A list of 862,000 Rohingyas was previously given to Myanmar by the Bangladesh government. After verifying this list provided by Bangladesh, Myanmar announced it would take back about 70,000 of them.

Bangladesh, which hosts over one million Rohingya refugees who fled a brutal crackdown by Myanmar's army in Rakhine State in 2017, has long been urging the international community to pressurize Myanmar to speed up the repatriation process.

However, fresh possibilities are arising for the Rohingya repatriation process around their arrival. We now have new hope thanks to news reports that were published in the Bangladeshi dailies recently. Myanmar has suddenly taken initiatives to repatriate Rohingyas. Eight diplomatic missions stationed in Yangon were transported to Rakhine last week as part of this operation. Diplomats from Bangladesh, India, and China were among them.

Three years ago, Beijing-mediated negotiations on the family-based repatriation of Rohingya to particular communities got under way. However, the corona outbreak and the army's takeover of power in Myanmar caused the repatriation of the Rohingya to stop. After a long break, Myanmar was finally active in repatriating Rohingyas. Questions about the true motivation behind this activity and the viability of repatriation are now being raised. Right now, Rakhine is in a good situation. A few months ago, the Arakan Army was involved in a bloody conflict with Myanmar's military regime. But things are much calmer now. It is not difficult in this circumstance to begin the repatriation of thousands of Rohingyas. Prior to the monsoon season getting underway in full force in June of next year, China is pushing for repatriation. Even if repatriation happens on a modest scale, ASEAN wants it to start.

33 camps and Bhasanchar in Ukhia Teknaf are housing the 1.2 million Rohingya who escaped persecution in Myanmar in 2017. The parliamentary standing committee for Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs met on January 30 and discussed the state of the Rohingya repatriation process. A trilateral initiative including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China has been adopted for the first half of 2020, according to the meeting's minutes. China, a close ally of Myanmar, helped mediate a pilot scheme to begin the sustainable repatriation of a small number of Rohingya.

Under this effort, two lists of 711 Muslim and 317 Hindu Rohingya were sent in October 2021. The fact that neither party made a firm decision in this area caused the entire process to stop. The issue of returning Rohingyas to Rakhine through the trial initiative, however, came to light last week. On Monday, a large number of the Rohingyas on that list spoke with the camp manager about returning home.

In any case, on August 25, 2017, a military operation in Northern Rakhine State resulted in the eviction of millions of Rohingya from their homes. Approximately 7.5 million Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh at that time. Many Rohingya already resided in Bangladesh before this. There are currently over 1.1 million Rohingya living in Cox's Bazar's refugee camps.

The Myanmar government took the ambassadors and consul generals of 11 nations, including eight ASEAN nations, on March 7 and 8 to tour several locations in Rakhine to demonstrate preparations for the repatriation of the Rohingya.

The effectiveness of repatriating the thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled the country to Bangladesh owing to persecution by the Myanmar army has drawn criticism from analysts and refugees. Previously, the repatriation procedure began in 2018 but ended in failure.

A class of ethnic minorities known as "Rohingya" were originally native to Myanmar's Rakhine state. The Rohingya minority has traditionally been considered an illegal immigrant by Buddhists in early Myanmar. Therefore, they were the targets of religious persecution by state-sponsored Buddhist militias. The Rohingya were thereafter subjected to horrendous slaughter and "ethnic cleansing" as a result. And that is often synonymous with genocide.

The Rohingya people are being oppressed, and the international community is outraged and calling for justice. Therefore, The Gambia stepped in to help with this humanitarian disaster, accusing the government of Myanmar of violating the Genocide Convention on the grounds of "obligation erga omnes," and submitting a case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2019. On the merits of the case, the ICJ announced a "procedural order" that includes an immediate halt to all atrocities committed by the Myanmar state against the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya were forced to flee to Bangladesh, which is nearby, as the persecution peaked in August 2017. As a result of the ongoing violence against the Rohingya, 1.1 million refugees have flocked to Bangladesh looking for safety. Despite having severe socioeconomic and criminal problems, our administration has done a remarkable job of integrating the new Rohingya.

As the first government to grant asylum to Rohingya refugees, our government has effectively put into practice the crucial humanitarian and customary international law principle of "non-refoulement" in accordance with Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which requires States parties not to deny refugees entry and not to send them back to their countries of origin.

This enormous project in Bangladesh has resulted in the construction of 34 sizable camps in the Cox's Bazar district's Ukhia and Teknaf, which, according to OCHA (the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), would shelter some 943,000 stateless Rohingya in October 2022.

But really, our nation will lose out when it comes to controlling the inhabitants inside such crowded camps. This vast population cannot be supported or housed by Bangladesh alone. To assist our nation in efficiently addressing the Rohingya crisis, the international world must shoulder some of the responsibility.

The current JRP Plan (Joint Response Plan) recommended $881 million in humanitarian help for the Rohingya community, although less than half of the JRP funding has actually been given. However, WFP (World Food Program) is asking to the world community to raise 125 million for the destitute Rohingya. The Rohingya are given significantly less aid by the WFP than is provided by the JRP appeal. Indirectly the lack of foreign aid will put considerable strain on our national economy which looks inevitable at the time.

Unfortunately, the international community's focus has switched to Europe as a result of the establishment of the Russia-Ukraine International Armed Conflict (IAC), making the Rohingya issue a never-ending catastrophe. In addition, the disorderly Rohingyas in nearby camps are gradually becoming entangled in the criminal underground out of necessity.

All types of organized crime, including drug trafficking, extremism, and terrorist acts, are routinely committed by internal crime syndicates like Arsa. Although our law enforcement agencies are making unrelenting efforts to put a stop to these actions, they are becoming increasingly risky for our country.

By 2025, the People's Republic of Bangladesh's Ministry of Defense projects that there will be 1.2–1.3 million Rohingya people living there. Due to the multiple risks that the Rohingya people faces, our government must take action to resolve this problem in a sustainable manner. Fortunately, our government has already taken the initiative to transfer to Bhasan Char, and according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), over 20,000 Rohingya have been voluntarily and peacefully relocated by 2020. Transfer, however, won't be sufficient. The only way to address the enormous issue is through rehabilitation and repatriation of Rohingyas.

Our Ministry of External Affairs is steadfastly requesting that major world countries use diplomacy to resolve this problem. Myanmar has made the decision to reintegrate persecuted Rohingya based on nationality verification, with the repatriated Rohingya being referred to as "Bengali foreigners," under the active supervision of international organizations and developed countries such as China, the United States, and EU countries.

The Rohingya problem in Bangladesh should be thoroughly resolved with assistance from the international community. To establish a lasting and effective solution to this severe situation, collaboration between foreign organizations, NGOs, and our government is crucial with the best interests of the Rohingya in mind. However, it is also crucial to keep up diplomatic and humanitarian assistance operations.

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