The possibility of the displaced people of Rohingya returning to their country is fading day by day. Bilateral and global discussions on this issue have also stalled. On August 25, 2017, the last Rohingya refugees from Myanmar passed through Teknaf and Ukhia border in Cox’s Bazar. At that time more than eight million Rohingya came to Bangladesh. In the next four years, an average of 30,000 Rohingya children were born in Bangladesh every year. According to this, the number of Rohingyas has increased to more than 1.2 million in 4 years.
Despite various initiatives taken by the Bangladesh government to repatriate them to Myanmar, it is not possible due to various complications. All in all, the door to Rohingya repatriation is almost strained. Many people think that they are staying in Bangladesh forever. But we need to understand that they are not the people of Bangladesh. They are the people of Myanmar. The law-and-order situation there is gradually deteriorating.
How the international community is showing support?
UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ special envoy for Myanmar Noeline Heizer arrived in Dhaka on Monday on a four-day visit. According to media reports, during the visit, Noelin Heizer will visit the camp to see the Rohingya situation on the ground. He will hold a meeting with Foreign Secretary Masoud Bin Momen. A special envoy will visit Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camp on Tuesday. She will talk to Rohingya refugees there. On the same day, she will meet with the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner. She will attend a dinner at the invitation of the Foreign Secretary at night. On Thursday, the last day of the visit, the Special Envoy will have a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. After that, she will speak at the 5-year anniversary of the Rohingya crisis at the Foreign Service Academy.
Bangladesh has been praised by the international community for providing shelter to the Rohingyas. Hence, Myanmar cannot exert pressure on the country to take back its citizens. International organizations, including the United Nations, have not been able to persuade the Myanmar government to negotiate with the Rohingyas to take them back to their country. Despite the formation of a committee and several meetings between the two countries on Rohingya repatriation, no Rohingya repatriation has taken place.
There is no immediate hope of Rohingya repatriation. Rohingya repatriation depends on the role of China, Russia, the US, the UK and India. China and India have direct interests in Myanmar. Both countries are investing in Myanmar. They have business there. Among these, China has more influence. As a result, if China is serious about taking back the Rohingyas without making diplomatic complications, then the repatriation of the Rohingyas will be possible. India also needs it. Because India also has geopolitical interests, though much less than China. Myanmar has a border and security agreement with India. Again, India is building a small port and road in Myanmar. As a result, India’s support is also important.
A few days ago, Chinese FM paid a visit to Bangladesh
Chinese FM, on his visit to Bangladesh, said that China would help solve the crisis. The Rohingya repatriation process has stopped completely. BD PM Sheikh Hasina is going to visit India next month. She might discuss the Rohingya issue with her Indian counterpart. For this, we have to depend on China, India and the UN Security Council. It doesn’t seem like it will unravel immediately. However, the government and the head of government have continued international pressure in this regard for the past four years. But the Myanmar government is by no means sincere.
The policymakers in Dhaka know the historical chemistry of China-Myanmar relations. Based on that account, they may have asked for Beijing’s cooperation to send the Rohingyas back. During the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Dhaka on August 7, the old expectation of Bangladesh was again reminded. But it is not giving any result. On the contrary, from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasanchar, the Rohingyas’ confidence about returning home has been shattered. Whether Dhaka has a roadmap to restore its morale, there is deep doubt in the country and abroad.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited Rohingya camps on August 16 and said in a statement that Rohingyas can return to their villages and homes in Myanmar. But it will be possible only if the situation is favorable. Unfortunately, the current situation at the border is not favorable for return. Repatriation must always be carried out in a voluntary and dignified manner and is only possible if a secure and stable situation prevails in Myanmar.
Those concerned said that Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding on the Rohingya crisis on November 23, 2017. Bangladesh signed an agreement with Myanmar on January 16, 2018, regarding repatriation. According to the agreement, Myanmar will take back 300 Rohingya every day. In other words, 1,500 Rohingyas will return in a week. A ‘Joint Working Group’ (JWG) was formed at the Foreign Secretary level to initiate the repatriation in February of the following year.
The JWG held four meetings
Amid this, a piece of good news is that on July 22 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected Myanmar’s initial objections to the lawsuit that The Gambia had filed under the international Genocide Convention.
The case centers on the alleged genocide committed by Myanmar against the ethnic Rohingya community in Rakhine State between October 2016 and August 2017.
Bangladesh has sought the pro-active support of Asean to kick-start their repatriation without any further delay. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen made this call at the Bangladesh-Indonesia bilateral meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno LP Marsudi in Jakarta on July 18.
He paid a diplomatic visit to Cambodia last month as he attended the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting on Aug 5-6. He raised the Rohingya issue again.
Since the beginning of the Rohingya influx, the international community, especially the United Nations, and various international alliances including the European Union, various Western countries, and human rights organizations have been with Bangladesh. But repatriation has been attempted keeping the international community behind. Again, through the mediation of China, the two countries could not implement the Rohingya repatriation date.
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The writer is a Development worker and independent researcher based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.