'I would not term it as diplomatic failure; rather it could be identified as a weakness in the ministry’s approaches'
Weaknesses in Bangladesh’s diplomatic approach to Myanmar and the international community have contributed to the delay in repatriating the Rohingya refugees, the National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh (NHRC) said yesterday.
Although more than a year has passed since the start of the Rohingya influx into Bangladesh from Myanmar, not one of the estimated 700,000 forcibly displaced refugees has returned to their country under the agreed repatriation framework.
“I would not term it as diplomatic failure; rather it could be identified as a weakness in the ministry’s approaches,” NHRC Chairman Kazi Reazul Haque said at a press conference at the NHRC head office.
NHRC claimed the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry had failed to connect properly with neighbouring and other concerned countries, citing the vetoing of a UN proposal on the topic by China.
“If the ministry could make them realize the importance of Bangladesh (as larger consumer market than Myanmar), then it would have been possible to change their stance and ensure safe repatriation and justice for the refugees,” the NHRC said.
The NHRC chairman said Bangladesh had also not protest the “false claims” of the Myanmar government properly, which led to Naypyidaw making wrong statements repeatedly regarding the Rohingya crisis.
He highlighted in particular Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent blaming of Bangladesh for the delay in the repatriation process, and said he had not seen any protest from the Foreign Ministry over the comments.
In a lecture in Singapore on August 21, Suu Kyi said terrorism, not social discrimination or inequality, had triggered the crisis.
She also claimed that Myanmar had mapped out general sites for the resettlement of the Rohingyas, but that the timing of the repatriation also depends on Bangladesh.
NHRC said in a bid to establish peace in the region, the UN Security Council should take it as a responsibility to make the proper repatriation of the Rohingya refugees a reality.
“The Rohingya crisis now has two separate issues: safe repatriation; and justice for the oppressed people,” the NHRC chairman said.
He urged Bangladesh to take an “aggressive stance” in sending the Rohingyas back.
“Myanmar must be forced by the international community to take them back,” he said. “But no UN member state has come forward to resolve the crisis. Even world leaders have failed as well.
“It seems like the Myanmar government ... have just adjusted their pace of the procedure depending on international reactions.”
Meghna Guhathakurta, a NHRC member, said the reason behind not imposing any sanction on Myanmar is because of significant investment by China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
“No western countries have been making big investments in the region, so imposing sanctions would not make any difference,” she said.
“Singapore did not let Asean impose any sanction on Myanmar. So if UN does not take the responsibility, it will be tough to force Myanmar to ensure safe repatriation for the refugees.”
NHRC Chairman Reazul said the UN must find a way where all the P5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council) countries could assume similar roles and intervene in places to ensure human rights and peace in the world.
“Otherwise it would lose respect from the global community,” he said. “The UN has to prove themselves as the organization of world peace by ensuring safe repatriation and justice for oppressed Rohingya refugees.”
He called for all Rohingya returnees to be kept at a United Nations-supervised buffer zone where they would be guaranteed safety, food, and their basic rights.
NHRC member Enamul Haque Chowdhury said that to make the repatriation process smoother the government should form a unit to study the facts and research, and to map out possible solutions to the crisis.