Bangladesh awaits feedback from Myanmar, reaches out to China
The next round of talks on Rohingya repatriation, scheduled to take place virtually on Thursday, appear uncertain amid the changed political situation in Myanmar.
Bangladesh is yet to establish contact with the new military-led government in Myanmar but has communicated with the Chinese government, as China is mediating talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Tuesday said they are waiting for feedback from Myanmar about the planned DG-level working group meeting.
Previously, Myanmar had responded positively to beginning Rohingya repatriation with the next round of talks in the first week of February.
Responding to a question, the foreign secretary said Bangladesh wants to see the Rohingya repatriation issue discussed in the UN Security Council meeting, not just the political situation in Myanmar. The pre-set UNSC meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
Earlier, Myanmar said they are committed to beginning repatriation of Rohingyas as per the bilateral agreement signed with Bangladesh in 2017. Myanmar's International Cooperation Minister Kyaw Tin conveyed the 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 through mutual partnership.
He had hoped to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar soon through the tripartite talks held between Bangladesh, Myanmar and China on January 19.
Bangladesh has handed over a list of 840,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for verification. Myanmar has verified only 42,000 people (5%).
"There is a serious lack of seriousness," the foreign minister said regarding Myanmar’s verification efforts.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh are doing their part but Myanmar is not helping.
He also said he is always hopeful of beginning repatriation, as history says they took back their nationals in 1978 and 1992.
Rohingya crisis and repatriation
More than three years ago, Myanmar soldiers “targeted, killed, and raped” the Rohingya community 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 a 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.
However, repatriation attempts failed twice, in November 2018 and August 2019, amid the Rohingyas' lack of trust in the Myanmar government.
Subsequently, during the 74th UNGA held in New York in September 2019, China took an initiative to propose the tripartite framework with their presence largely in an overseeing role to hold both sides to account on their respective commitments to each other.
The Bangladesh side had 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 three countries on January 20, 2020, coronavirus lockdowns were implemented around the world.
Bangladesh has pushed Myanmar hard on creating a favourable environment for Rohingya repatriation with an expeditious verification process and cautiously expressed optimism on beginning repatriation in the second quarter of this year.