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Rohingya repatriation: Naypyidaw trying to frustrate Bangladesh-Myanmar-China tripartite mechanism

  • Published at 10:53 pm December 24th, 2019
File photo of a Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

After the first meet in October, the next sitting scheduled for early November could not be held due to Myanmar's reluctance

Like all other processes, Naypyidaw is trying to frustrate the tripartite mechanism involving Bangladesh, Myanmar and China, set up to jointly evaluate the progress on the ground to facilitate the beginning of the repatriation of the Rohingya sheltered in Cox's Bazar.

Following the maiden meeting in October at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka, no further sitting has been held yet, due to the reluctance and lack of seriousness on Myanmar’s part, officials concerned have told Dhaka Tribune.

The second meeting of the tripartite mechanism was scheduled for early November, they added.

File photo: The Police Bureau of Investigation says they are investigating 35 cases of trafficking involving the Rohingyas | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka TribuneThe joint mechanism came into being during a ministerial-level meeting on September 23, under the auspices of China, the staunchest ally of Myanmar, on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Raising some objections initially, Myanmar agreed to the formation of the forum that involved China directly for the first time in the repatriation process. 

The role of Beijing here is that of a facilitator as it is friends with both Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The director general of Southeast Asia wing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Myanmar ambassador and the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh are the members of the joint mechanism.

“At the first meeting [in October], the director general and the two ambassadors talked about the modalities, as to how they would work, which will ultimately lead to the beginning of the repatriation," a senior foreign ministry official said.

"Another meeting was scheduled for early November, but could not take place due to the lack of response from Myanmar," he added.

However, he said he was optimistic the pending meeting would be held soon.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas who have fled their homeland in Rakhine State after being persecuted by their own country | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune"In the first meeting, Myanmar was asked to make available the details of their plan to accommodate the Rohingya who will return," the official said.

“They [Myanmar] were also asked to make their position known about taking some Rohingya community leaders from Cox's Bazar to Rakhine to see the condition for themselves, so that upon return they could inform the displaced people living here,” he added. “We asked for it as we do not want to waste time. We want to come straight to the point.”

“Look, Myanmar is not known for living up to its pledges. We do not think there will be any exception this time round," another official said.

Casting doubt about the success of the forum, he said: “In the past, they [Myanmar] have frustrated every initiative that has been taken to begin the repatriation of their own people.  It is extremely difficult to deal with a country like Myanmar.”

Both the officials, who have thorough knowledge about the issue, have been of the opinion that, undoubtedly, Myanmar is trying to frustrate the tripartite mechanism as it was reluctant to be the part of the process in the first place.

Taking its past  into account, it can be said without any ambiguity that Naypyidaw has never been willing to take the Rohingyas back, despite the fact that more than one bilateral instrument is in place to begin the repatriation, the officials said.

However, they pointed out to the apparent positive attitude of China regarding this joint mechanism, and said it would be very difficult for Naypyidaw to ignore Beijing.

If China remains persistent, something positive may come out of the forum, they added.

Nearly 750,000 Rohingyas had cross into Bangladesh since August 25, 2017, owing fleeing unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist goons, and people from different ethnic groups in Rakhine.

They joined several hundred thousands of Rohingyas already living in Bangladesh for a long time.