The tripartite forum held its first meeting last week, according to Foreign Ministry sources
The joint mechanism among Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China, aiming to expedite the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Rakhine, Myanmar, has begun its operation, with its maiden meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week, diplomatic sources have told Dhaka Tribune.
The director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Southeast Asia wing, and ambassadors of Myanmar, and China in Bangladesh are the members of the tripartite forum.
Following the foreign minister-level meeting among Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, US on September 23, the formation of such a mechanism was agreed upon to expedite the repatriation process.
“Yes, we have started our activities, having held the forum’s first meeting last week,” a senior foreign ministry official told Dhaka Tribune.
“At the first meeting, the director general and the two ambassadors talked about the modalities for moving forward to begin the repatriation,” he said, adding that another meeting is scheduled for next week.
About the success of this tripartite mechanism, which includes China directly for the first time in such a process regarding the Rohingya crisis, another senior official said: “It all depends on the good will of Myanmar, and China – the staunchest ally of our second neighbour.”
When asked for a tentative date for the beginning of the repatriation, he said he had “no idea whatsoever.”
“You are dealing with a country which never sticks to its words. One day, it says one thing, and the next day it says the opposite. It is extremely difficult to engage with such a country,” he added.
According to a bilateral agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23, 2017 in Naypyidaw, the repatriation was supposed to begin on January 22, 2018, and was scheduled to end within two years of the commencement.
The deal also states that it is Myanmar’s responsibility to create a conducive environment for the return of the hundreds of thousands of its people displaced from Rakhine. But due to Naypyidaw’s failure, the repatriation could not commence.
Two attempts were made in November 2018, and in August this year, but no Rohingyas were willing to return as they felt they would not be safe after going back to Rakhine.
Nearly 750,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh in the latest Rohingya exodus, which began on August 25, 2017, sparked by unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist goons, and people from different ethnic groups in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
They joined more than 350,000 Rohingya refugees already living in refugee camps in Ukhiya, and Teknaf upazilas of Cox’s Bazar.