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Bangladesh, Myanmar to hold Rohingya repatriation talks Tuesday

  • Published at 11:48 am October 29th, 2018
Rohingya-children-Rohingya-camp-12-10-18
File photo of Rohingya children at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Joint Working Group members to visit camps, interact with Rohingyas Wednesday

Bangladesh and Myanmar will hold their next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on the repatriation of verified Rohingyas on Tuesday.

The foreign secretary-level meeting will be held at a State guesthouse in Dhaka, reports UNB.

According to the report, the meeting will be co-chaired by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar Myint Thu and his Bangladesh counterpart Senior Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs M Shahidul Haque.

Officials said they will discuss in detail about the Rohingya repatriation issue as there are "intensive efforts" to begin the repatriation as soon as possible.

There is a that the first batch of of 8000 verified Rohingyas could be repatriated before the next national election; although it is difficult to predict such a complex issue, a diplomatic source said, adding that China is pushing for the rapid implementation of repatriation agreements between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Foreign Ministry officials said Bangladesh’s JWG members discussed a breadth  of issues on Sunday before the JWG meeting.

An official told UNB that the JWG members of both sides will visit the Cox's Bazar Rohingya camps on October 31 and will interact with Rohingyas.  

He said Bangladesh will seek updates about which steps are being taken for the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland Myanmar from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh wants to be certain that the Rohingyas who are expected to return to Myanmar in the first batch of repatriation have houses—and other facilities to live in their own villages.

"We have completed village-wise verification of 8,000 Rohingyas. We want to make sure they can start living in houses in their own villages," Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on October 15 said.

Stating that India has built 250 houses while China is building 1,000 more, he said: "The returnees will first stay at reception centres in Myanmar and then will go to their villages."

Myanmar has thus far failed to take steps to ensure the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas.

Chinese Minister and Party Committee Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security Zhao Kezhi and his Bangladesh counterpart also discussed the Rohingya issue on Friday.

The Bangladesh side sought China's role in repatriating Rohingya.

"There will be a tripartite meeting among Bangladesh Foreign Minister (AH Mahmood Ali) and his Chinese and Myanmar counterparts where they will discuss the issue further," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.

However, he did not elaborate on when and where this meeting will be held.

Similar meetings were held in New York and Beijing over the past months, indicating that pressure is mounting on Myanmar.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, made three recommendations for solving the Rohingya crisis at its root—including abolishing Myanmar’s  discriminatory laws, policies and practices against the minority group.

According to her second recommendation, Myanmar must create an acceptable environment by building trust and guaranteeing protection, rights, and a pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas. If needed, it should create a safe zone inside the country to protect all civilians.

Her third recommendation says atrocious crimes against Rohingyas should be prevented by bringing about accountability and justice—particularly in the light of recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali along with joint working group members in August visited the northern Rakhine State and saw the trail of widespread devastation suffered by people there, the Foreign Ministry officials said.

He also visited Shwe Zar village where around 148 prefabricated houses for returnees are being built with the assistance of the government of India.

After the military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on August 25 last year, more than 700,000 Rohingyas, mostly children and women, crossed into Bangladesh.

They joined more than 400,000 existing refugees who were already living in squalid, cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the JWG on December 2017 to start repatriating Rohingya refugees by January 23, 2018.

In May, JWG’s Myanmar side urged the Bangladeshi side to commence the repatriation of the prior-verified 778 muslim and 444 hindu Rohigya.