• Saturday, Nov 27, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:37 am

Myanmar says it's committed to 2017 Rohingya repatriation deal

  • Published at 05:55 pm January 22nd, 2021
Rohingya camp
FILE PHOTO: Bangladesh now hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingyas after nearly 700,000 crossed into the country from Myanmar following the 2017 brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State to join the Rohingyas who were already in the country Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Repatriation unlikely in first quarter of 2021 as Myanmar needs more time

Myanmar has said they are committed to beginning the repatriation of Rohingyas as per the bilateral agreement signed with Bangladesh in 2017.

Myanmar's International Cooperation Affairs Minister Kyaw Tin conveyed this message to Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen in a recent letter. 

The Myanmar minister also said they are committed to ensuring peaceful relations with all neighbours, including Bangladesh, and resolving any problems peacefully. 

Kyaw Tin said they want to resolve any bilateral issues with neighbours through mutual partnership. 

He hoped to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar soon, through the tripartite talks held with Bangladesh, Myanmar and China on January 19.

The Myanmar International Cooperation Minister agreed with Dr Momen that the countries need solidarity and cooperation to face the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

He mentioned that his country took back Rohingyas in 1978 and 1992 through mutual discussion. 

Kyaw Tin wished peace and prosperity for the people of Bangladesh and good health to Dr Momen. 

He also thanked the Bangladesh Foreign Minister for writing to him on January 1.

Kyaw Tin and Dr Momen served as permanent representatives to the UN for their respective countries and they developed an intimacy at that time, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

Also read- Suspected Rohingya yaba trader killed in Bandarban ‘gunfight’

Earlier, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh has handed over a list of 840,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for verification.

"Myanmar has verified very few people. They are very slow. They have verified only 42,000 people (5%). There is a serious lack of seriousness," said the foreign minister.

Dr Momen said they are doing their part, but Myanmar is not helping. He said he is always hopeful of beginning repatriation, as history says they took back their nationals in 1978 and 1992.

More than three years ago, Myanmar soldiers targeted, killed, and raped Rohingya and burned their villages, as the United Nations, Refugees International, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the US State Department itself, and many others have documented.

Over 800,000 Rohingyas fled the “genocidal violence” and Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas.

Bangladesh is trying in multiple ways - bilaterally, multilaterally, tri-laterally, and through the judicial system – to find a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.

They then signed a document on the physical arrangement, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

Also read- Rohingyas satisfied with Bhashan Char facilities

Repatriation attempts failed twice - in November 2018 and August 2019 - amid the Rohingyas' lack of trust in the Myanmar government.

During the 74th UNGA in New York in September 2019, China proposed a tripartite framework, with themselves largely in an overseeing role to hold both sides to account on their respective commitments to each other.

The Bangladesh side have already complained of Myanmar acting in bad faith during negotiations, with no intention of taking the Rohingya back and only meeting to keep up appearances.

However, soon after a meeting of the trio on January 20, 2020, the coronavirus lockdowns started taking its toll on different parts of the world.

Bangladesh has pushed Myanmar hard on creating a favourable environment for Rohingya repatriation with an expeditious verification process and "cautiously expressed optimism" to begin it in the second quarter of this year.

The two countries will address relevant issues, including a joint working group meeting with an expansion that will be held in February first week to prepare the ground for repatriation in the second quarter of the current year.

The China-Bangladesh-Myanmar meeting was chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui and Myanmar Deputy Minister of International Cooperation Hau Do Suan led the Myanmar side.

Also read- Bhashan Char: Int'l community softens stance

Masud Momen, who led the Bangladesh side in the meeting, said the process should start at least, and it will take a long time to send back all Rohingyas. The number is growing, with 90,000 children born at the Rohingya camps in the last three years.

Bangladesh proposed starting repatriation in the first quarter, but Myanmar said the logistical arrangement will take some more time, especially as they have a meeting in parliament on April 1.

"Apparently, it will be difficult to begin in the first quarter," said Masud Momen, adding that a DG-level hotline will be opened for instant communication between the two countries over repatriation issues.

The foreign secretary said they want to proceed by taking lessons from the two failed attempts, so that this time the repatriation can start successfully.

“There are many factors. We are keeping those factors into consideration as we could not be successful by giving two dates previously. We are taking lessons from that and finding ways on how we can become successful. We will remain engaged sincerely,” he said.

Masud Momen said they do not think everything will be resolved overnight but they want to do it taking all on board, including the international community and INGOs.

The foreign secretary said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has written to the office of the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) to open a repatriation wing.

The wing will be solely responsible for repatriation related work, as the MoFA cannot do it from here directly.

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