After Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi took over power of Myanmar a nationality verification process was initiated in the Rakhine State dominated by the Muslim minority community.
As part of the move, a committee was formed under the chairmanship of Aung San Suu Kyi. The committee said it would restore peace and ensure development in the Rakhine State.
Meanwhile, across the Naf River in Bangladesh a census was initiated in May to enumerate undocumented Rohingyas scattered across many districts of Bangladesh.
However, the Rohingyas on the both sides of the Naf are utterly disappointed over the measures taken by both the governments.
Members involved in the Myanmar nationality verification process are offering the Rohingya people facilities to move outside, receive healthcare from hospitals, and access to education.
But most of the Rohingyas have already declined to get involved in the process as with the facilities offered they are being provided with a green card that terms them “Muslim minority Bengali.”
“Most of the Rohingyas are turning down the offer as the green card does not recognise them as Rohingya which is our real identity,” said U Kyaw Hla Aung, a Rohingya community leader.
He also put in: “Some illiterate Rohingyas have already been registered under the process without realising the fact that they will now be treated as illegal immigrant from Bangladesh.”
There is no difference between Suu Kyi's government and that of the former military junta in terms of their treatment of Rohingya people, said U Chit Lwin, a Myanmar Supreme Court lawyer and former member of the parliament from Maungdaw constituency during the election in 1990.
“I don't think the Suu Kyi cannot do anything for the betterment of the Rakhine State as the current government's key ministries – home, interior and defence ministries – are under the absolute control of the military,” he told the Dhaka Tribune over phone.
Bangladesh government's census
The census in Bangladesh started last month and ended on June 10 this month. The census in Cox's Bazar was extended up to June 15.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) carried out the census at a cost of Tk21.75cr.
On September 9, 2013, the cabinet approved a national strategy for a long-term solution to the prevailing problems caused by Rohingya population in Bangladesh.
A 22-member National Task Force headed by the foreign secretary was formed to monitor the implementation of the national strategy.
A higher official from the BBS requesting not to be named said: “The main objective of this census is to collect the exact number of undocumented Rohingyas living in Bangladesh so that the government can provide them with their basic needs to respond to the calls of international communities.”
Census Project Director Alamgir Hossain, also the deputy director of BBS, declined to comment on the result of the census and advised this reporter to contact the foreign secretary.
The Dhaka Tribune has obtained the national strategy paper, which says the government has to spend about Tk33.5cr every year on registered refugees in two camps.
It also highlighted the Rohingyas' involvement in illegal activities that is causing the government even more harm.
The strategy paper suggested quick repatriation of these Rohingya people, otherwise they will become a national security threat.
It also criticised the Myanmar government for not resuming repatriation of the Rohingya refugees after so many meetings between the two countries.
Farheen Khan of the External Relations Unit of the UNHCR in Bangladesh said: “You cannot push anyone who take shelter in another country after they are persecuted in their own country.
“Such people cannot be coerced into going back until the conflict comes to an end.”
Many Rohingyas not covered by census
The census was carried out in six districts – Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, Patuakhali and Khagrachari.
But the Dhaka Tribune investigation found some anomalies in the census.
During a visit to the Inani beach area adjacent to Ukhiya where as many as 50 families are living and Langur Beel where at least 10 undocumented Rohingya families live, it was found that they were not enlisted in the census.
They said no one from the government visited them.
A woman from Langur Beel said: “No one came to me to take my information.”
Even many undocumented Rohingyas who have become Bangladeshi nationals by using fake identities and were issued Bangladesh's national identity cards and passports were also not included in the census fearing a possible restriction by Bangladeshi government.
Also, the census has not identified any of the local politicians of Teknaf, Ukhiya and Bandarban, who have become Bangladeshi citizens illegally and had their families in Myanmar.
Trained by the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), many Rohingyas are becoming ruling party key figures in Naikkhongchhori area of Bandarban.
Many locals confirmed that those leaders were not included in the just-concluded census.
When asked about it, the local statistics officials declined to make any comments as they were ordered not to talk to the media.
However, Abdul Hai, junior statistics assistant, told the Dhaka Tribune that this process would ultimately help the poor Rohingya people, not the rich ones who have are already been established here in Bangladesh.
Complaints are there that the statistics officials did not visit the areas where undocumented Rohingyas are living.
After learning about the census, many Rohingyas went to the statistics office themselves to get registered as they think this will be a process to go back to Myanmar if the situation returns to normal there.
A youth named Amir, who willingly got enlisted in the census, however, said: “Brother, your country Bangladesh has done a lot for us. We have been here as guests for a long time. I hope we will go back to our country very soon.”
Chair of the National Task Force
When Dhaka Tribune met Shahidul Haq, the foreign secretary and the chairperson of the National Task Force, he declined to make any comments.
As the Dhaka Tribune put forward 15 questions before him, he in reply said he had no comments. Shahidul had been referred by almost all of the census related field officials as the authorised person to provide information on the subject.
Finally, he threatened this reporter with dire consequences if something is written on the issue referring to his name.