The formation of a joint working group and finalization of its work method and mandate to repatriate the Rohingyas will likely take place on Tuesday during a Bangladesh-Myanmar foreign secretary-level meeting.
Dhaka says it wants to finalize the work method and mandate upholding the rights of the Rohingyas.
Bangladesh finalized its stance on the matter in an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque on Sunday.
A Foreign Ministry official said the countries were scheduled to form the working group and finalize its work method mandate within December 14 according to the November 23 bilateral agreement.
But it could not be done.
Dhaka and Nay Pyi Taw have exchanged several proposals but could not reach a conclusion as they did not agree on certain points.
Bangladesh wants to include most instruments of the November 23 agreement in the work method and mandate, but Myanmar wants to include as few elements as possible.
The key elements of the agreement are – safe repatriation of the Rohingyas who came to Bangladesh after October 2016, arranging their livelihood, and providing them citizenship certificates.
Others include swiftly verifying the information on Rohingyas provided by Bangladesh; finding ways to solve problems, if any arise, during repatriation; preparing physical arrangement agreement for repatriation; keeping the UN or international community involved with the repatriation process; implementation of the Rakhine Commission report; and improving human rights situation.
The Foreign Ministry official said Dhaka wanted to keep as many of these instruments as possible in the work method and mandate.
“It will be discussed in Tuesday’s meeting,” the official said. “One of the best characteristics of the agreement is that it covers the rights of the Rohingyas. We want the matter to be included in every bilateral agreement.”
“One of the sections of the agreement says that both sides will not implement anything that violates internationally accepted human rights policy.”
Bangladesh will keep up international pressure alongside its attempt to bilaterally solve the Rohingya crisis.
A government official in Dhaka said Bangladesh would continue to try hard to ensure the matter is discussed at the regular meeting of UN Human Rights Council scheduled for March.
“Apart from that, we will also keep trying so that the Rohingya issue is discussed often at the Security Council,” the official added.
More than 600,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from their homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since late August after the military launched a “clearance operation” targeting the mainly Muslim minority.
The refugees and rights groups have accused the Myanmar army of murder, rape, torture and arson – charges the army denies. The UN has described the violence in the Rakhine state as “ethnic cleansing.”
Nearly 90,000 Rohingyas had come to Bangladesh after a similar crackdown on October 9 last year.
Before that, Bangladesh was already hosting an estimated 300,000 Rohingyas who had crossed the border over the years to escape state-sponsored persecution.
Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, does not recognize the Rohingyas and dubs them “Bangalis” to imply that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
They are often described as one of the world’s largest stateless communities and one of the most persecuted minorities.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune