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China reportedly offers Rohingyas money to return home

  • Published at 06:16 pm March 6th, 2019
Members of a newly-arrived Rohingya family are seen coming out of UNHCR-supported transit camp in Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya upazila on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 Abdul Aziz/Dhaka Tribune

The refugees have apparently rejected the offer

A Chinese government delegation has reportedly met a group of Rohingya Muslims in Cox’s Bazar and promised each refugee up to $6,000 if they return to the Rakhine state in Myanmar.

Quoting a Bangladeshi official and refugee leaders, Indonesia-based BenarNews on Tuesday reported that Sun Gouxiang, China’s special envoy for Asian affairs, met with 15 men and 14 women at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar on March 3.

Syed Ullah, the secretary-general of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), told BenarNews: “They asked us whether we would go back if they gave us $5,000 to $6,000.”

“We rejected their proposal and asserted that we will in no way return if we are not given citizenship with Rohingya identity and our other demands are not met,” he said.

The United Nations estimates that some 740,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh following a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts in August 2017.

Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in total in a number of camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Requesting anonymity, a Bangladeshi official, who attended the meeting, also confirmed to BenarNews that the Chinese delegation had offered up to $6,000 to help the refugees rebuild their homes in Rakhine.

“Chinese government offered them the money, so that each Rohingya family can build their own houses when they go back,” said the official.

But, the official said, it would be impossible for the refugees to build their own homes, as most of them have lost the men in their households as a result of the military crackdown, which the US and the UN have dubbed as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar has denied the allegations.

BenarNews, a Radio Free Asia-affiliated online news service, reported that the Chinese embassy in Dhaka did not respond to their email seeking comment on the matter.

Delwar Hossain, an official in charge of the Southeast Asia desk at Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told BenarNews that his office had arranged the meeting between the Chinese delegation and the refugees.

“They discussed the demands of the Rohingya people,” Hossain said.

Rohingyas adamant

Alauddin Bhuiyan, another Bangladeshi official, also told BenarNews that during his Cox’s Bazar visit, Chinese envoy Sun Gouxiang was accompanied by two officials from the Chinese embassy in Myanmar, a diplomat from its embassy in Dhaka, and two Foreign Ministry officials from Beijing.

Muhib Ullah, chairman of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, talks to BenarNews in Cox’s Bazar, after attending a meeting with a Chinese delegation at Kutupalong refugee camp on March 5, 2019 | Courtesy: BenarNews

The delegation met with Rohingya leaders and Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, Foreign Ministry sources said.

A Rohingya leader told the Chinese delegation that the refugees would “never accept any repatriation without international security, full citizenship with Rohingya identity and justice,” said Syed Ullah.

Talking to BenarNews, ARSPH Chairman Muhib Ullah provided more details about the meeting. He said: “First of all, they wanted to know whether all of us were Rohingya and we would go back.

“We told them that we would go right now if they accept our demands. Otherwise, we will not go.”

“If Myanmar grants us citizenship, we will return instantly,” he said.

China saving its skin?

Bangladesh’s former ambassador to Beijing Munshi Fayez said China’s move to start talking to Rohingya refugees about possible repatriation was apparently aimed at protecting its regional ally Myanmar from international pressure, and at gaining a foothold on the economic benefits of the return of the refugees.

“Myanmar has created such a situation that China in future may not be able to protect them from international pressure,” he said. “So, they are trying to mediate the Rohingya repatriation to save (China’s) international image.”

At the same time, Fayez said, China was also seeking a solution to the Rohingya issue for their economic interests.

“China wants to create an economic zone in Rakhine,” the former diplomat said. “If the Rohingya issue remained unresolved, they would not be able to create an economic zone.”

The Chinese envoy left Dhaka on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry sources told BenarNews.

Before travelling to Bangladesh, Sun Gouxiang had visited several villages in the Rakhine state and met with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw on February 27, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.