Myanmar-Bangladesh: solution of a prolonged Rohingya refugee crisis on the way?

About six years ago, millions of persecuted Rohingya men and women from Arakan in neighboring Myanmar took refuge

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Myanmar-Bangladesh: solution of a prolonged Rohingya refugee crisis on the way?

About six years ago, millions of persecuted Rohingya men and women from Arakan in neighboring Myanmar took refuge in Bangladesh. Since then, Bangladesh has been making efforts to repatriate the Rohingyas as well as providing shelter and humanitarian assistance. After a lot of paperwork, several repatriation initiatives were taken, but it got delayed due to various reasons. However, this time there is good news about the Rohingya repatriation.

It is known that the officials of the two countries are working on the issue of Rohingya repatriation in the first phase this month. And
This is the first time Myanmar has invited a delegation of Rohingya Muslims to Arakan to observe repatriation preparations. According to the source
A 20-member Rohingya delegation with Bangladeshi officials is scheduled to visit Mangdu, Arakan next Friday (in Rakhine) to see how favorable the situation in Arakan is for repatriation.

According to media reports, a tripartite meeting between Bangladesh and Myanmar was held in Kunming on April 18, mediated by China. In that meeting, it was decided that Bangladeshi officials with their representatives will go to Arakan or Rakhine next Friday to see how favorable the environment is for the start of Rohingya repatriation this month. Within a week of the visit, a delegation from Myanmar will come to Cox's Bazar to talk to the Rohingyas. China and Myanmar want to start repatriating the first group of 1,176 Rohingyas this month if the situation is right.

Almost six years have passed since the arrival of the Rohingya in Bangladesh, but the repatriation could not be started even after finalizing two dates. Repatriation of the Rohingya is believed to be unconvincing due to a lack of goodwill in Myanmar and a supportive environment for repatriation, particularly in Rakhine or Arakan.

Observers say Myanmar is looking to start repatriating Rohingya suddenly, as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) sets a deadline for counter-arguments in the genocide case against the country. Myanmar is scheduled to submit its written explanation to the ICJ on May 24. Apart from this, preparations are underway to present a new proposal to the UN General Assembly on the Rohingya issue in June. So to reduce international pressure
International Rohingya analysts believe that Myanmar along with China has taken this latest step to repatriate the Rohingya.

According to media sources, China has been active in repatriating the Rohingya for months amid increasing international pressure on Myanmar's military junta. In particular, China's special envoy Deng Xijun visited Myanmar in December last year. Earlier last month, he visited Dhaka and met Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Foreign Secretary Masood Bin Momen.

According to observers, the idea of sending Rohingya representatives to Rakhine has been discussed for several years, but Myanmar has not agreed to it. It cannot be said that there is no problem behind suddenly agreeing to take the Rohingya representatives (in Rakhine) to Arakan. It remains to be seen how realistic China and Myanmar's interest in Rohingya repatriation is from this month. According to them, even though the talks on repatriation are progressing, differences between Bangladesh and Myanmar remain on some fundamental issues.

Bangladesh, Myanmar and China decided in separate and joint discussions, this year 6 thousand Rohingya will be taken back to Arakan or Rakhine by December in 5 more phases of 1200 people each. According to sources, despite such a decision, Myanmar's differences with Bangladesh on some fundamental issues have not been resolved. According to the repatriation agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar, 1,500 Rohingya are to be sent 300 per day, 5 days a week. But Myanmar now says that 150 Rohingya can be taken back to Rakhine, 30 people a day, 5 days a week, because of their lack of preparation. And Bangladesh says that according to the terms of the agreement, the Rohingyas must be taken back.

In August 2017, only three months after the influx of Rohingya, Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh for repatriation, largely under pressure from China. At that time, the then foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, visited Bangladesh and Myanmar several times. Although China is behind it, it was said that Bangladesh and Myanmar are trying to solve this problem bilaterally.

The latest from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
According to statistics, 960 thousand 539 registered Rohingyas are staying in Bangladesh. Among them, the number of old registered Rohingyas is 37 thousand 366.

But in reality, the number of Rohingyas who have taken refuge in Bangladesh is more than 1.6 million.

1st-ever Rohingya team to visit Myanmar this week to 'assess conditions' for repatriation

However, the Turkish Anadolou Agency says, A 20-member Rohingya team is set to visit Myanmar this week to assess the condition in the Rakhine State of Myanmar for possible repatriation before this monsoon, according to Bangladeshi officials.

Sources in the Foreign Ministry told Anadolu: “The visit is aimed at building confidence among the refugees for a safe, voluntary, and dignified repatriation.”

The Foreign Ministry officials in the field working on refugee management will also accompany the team.

Speaking to Anadolu, Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammed Mizanur Rahman said it is a positive development to start a peaceful and dignified repatriation of the forcibly displaced citizens of Myanmar.

“I am hopeful that after a long gap, a significant sign of Rohingya repatriation has been visible,” Rahman said.

He, however, added that it will depend on how the Myanmar authorities receive their citizens.

The ministry officials hoped the repatriation would start before this monsoon.

The monsoon season normally lasts from June through October.

This is the first Rohingya refugees' official visit after their exodus in August 2017. The team is expected to visit Myanmar on May 5 following a rare visit of Myanmar junta officials to the refugee camps on the southeast coast of Bangladesh in March this year.

More than 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims forcibly displaced from Myanmar live in 33 congested refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, with another 30,000 relocated to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal. Most of the refugees fled a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine, a state on the western coast of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Chinese mediation

Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Yao Wen went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a meeting with acting Foreign Secretary Md. Khurshed Alam in Dhaka.

“Efforts are underway to start the repatriation of Rohingya this month with the mediation of China before the start of monsoon season. And, Bangladesh, China, and Myanmar are working to make the repatriation successful,” according to the sources.

Bangladesh earlier made the proposal to send the Rohingya living in the Bangladeshi refugee camps to visit Rakhine state in advance to monitor the situation. After waiting for so many years, Myanmar has agreed to allow Rohingya to visit Myanmar.

In the first phase, over 1,100 pre-screened Rohingya are supposed to go under this arrangement if it is successful. Many such initiatives failed earlier due to non-cooperation from the Myanmar side.

On March 15, a 22-member high-level delegation from Myanmar came to Bangladesh and held meetings with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s camps under Chinese mediation for a week to verify a list of 429 Rohingya Muslims prepared by Bangladesh for repatriation.




By: Dr Arpita Hazarika

Dr Arpita Hazarika, is a Gauhati University, Assam, India-based researcher. She is very interested in refugee affairs, political economy, security and strategic affairs, and foreign policies of the Asia-Pacific region. She visited a number of countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, UK, USA, France, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, and Canada. She has research works on India-Bangladesh affairs


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